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POSTED: Dec 10, 2018
MCU’s Tips for Sticking to Your Financial Resolutions in the New Year

Welcoming in the New Year means taking on new resolutions. If your goals for the New Year include becoming more financially fit, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, according to the consumer research organization Nielsen, 25 percent of New Year’s resolutions include the better management of money.

Sticking to your resolutions can be tough, but If you’re ready to work hard and achieve your goals, we’re ready to help! Check out our tips below on how to achieve your financial resolutions in the New Year.

1. Consider your Habits
Nobody likes making mistakes but looking back on your missteps can be a valuable tool when it comes to breaking bad financial habits. By taking time to evaluate how you’ve struggle to manage your finances in the past, you’ll be able to take steps that will make a meaningful impact on your financial fitness.Taking the time to sort these documents in advance will not only save you the trouble during crunch time, but will also help to reduce the risk of errors when filing your taxes.
For example, by recognizing that you have a habit of overspending on your weekly groceries, you can recognize the value in taking time to clip coupons or order groceries online where you can’t be tempted by impulse purchases.

2. Set SMART Goals
Oftentimes, achieving your New Year’s resolutions can be made much easier just by verbalizing or recording them in a way that will motivate you. For example, saying that you’d like to save more money may not emotionally motivate you the way that saying that you’d like to save $5,000 by the end of the year to put towards a new car might.

In order to set a meaningful and motivating goal, it’s important to remember it must be “SMART” – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time sensitive.

  • Specific: Keep your goal as focused and clear-cut as possible. This will allow you to visualize your endgame and take the appropriate steps to achieve it.
  • Measurable: Be sure you can set small milestones or take inventory of your progress as you go so you can feel confident about your progress towards your final goal.
  • Achievable: Your goal can be ambitious, but it shouldn’t be too lofty.
  • Realistic: If your goal is to find a bag full of money on the street, it’s time to try again. Your goals and resolutions shouldn’t only be achievable under the best case or unusual circumstances.
  • Time Sensitivity: A timeline is a key component to setting your goals. Give your goals a deadline and only change them if it’s absolutely required.

3. Get Your Friends and Family Involved
If you’ve struggled with following through on goals, this year is a great opportunity to break the cycle by getting your friends and family involved. By including your loved ones, you’ll not only have extra resources and support, but will also be held accountable for achieving your resolutions. It may not always be easy to talk about money, but by sharing ideas, brainstorming and making changes together can both create help create positive financial habits and bring people together. To learn to get started on how to include your family in your financial goals, check out our blog post Reaching Financial Goals as a Family.

4. Create a Budget
No matter what your financial goals are, your budget will be the key to your success by providing you with a blueprint that will help you stay vigilant of your finances. By creating a breakdown of spending, income and debts, you’ll be able to better identify wasteful spending, adapt quickly to financial emergencies and begin to make headway on your future plans.

To learn more about how to create a budget that can work for you, check out our blog post MCU’s Tips for Creating an Effective Spending Plan.

5. Set Up Direct Deposit
Setting aside savings to achieve your financial goals can seem daunting. However, by using direct deposit and automated transfers, you can begin to put as much or as little away as you want each month without even having to think about it.

Depending on your goals and priorities, direct deposit can be used to allocate funds to a checking account used exclusively to make loan payments, a 529 or other college savings account, Holiday or Vacation Club Account, or even an after-tax investment account.

And using direct deposit won’t just ensure that your annual goals are met, but will give you the confidence to freely use any money still available in your personal account after the deductions.

POSTED: Dec 07, 2018
MCU’s New Year Financial Checklist

The New Year is an exciting chance to set goals and plan for the future. And if your resolutions include improving your financial situation, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, last year nearly 40 percent of Americans said their goal was to save more money.

Changing old habits and building new ones can be undoubtedly tough, especially if you’re not sure where to start when it comes to reaching your goals. As you head into 2019, check out our New Year Financial Checklist below. These tips, along with patience and hard work, will help you better manage your money today and plan for a more financially fit future.

1. Check Your Credit Reports.

Looking to the future and setting realistic and effective goals is easier when you know what your starting point is. This is when a credit report comes in handy. The three credit bureaus –TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian – are required to give you a free copy of your credit report once a year. This will help you to not only fully understand your situation and financial habits, but will also help you check for mistakes and fraud that could be negatively effecting your credit score.

You can order these reports online from annualcreditreport.com, which is the only authorized website for free credit reports, or call 1-877-322-8228. To receive your credit report, you will need to provide your name, address, social security number, and date of birth to verify your identity.

If anything seems wrong, you can also dispute errors through each credit bureau. Keep in mind some disputes will take longer than others. However, once you initiate a dispute, the credit bureaus are required to investigate it and report the resolution.

2. Review Your Budget

A lot may have changed in the last year – you may have gotten married, bought a home or gotten a new job. These major life events, along with many others that may come your way, will likely require you to take a second look at your spending plan and consider how it’s working for you.

No matter what your financial situation is, an effective budget is always essential to balancing long-term goals and everyday expenses. By creating a breakdown of spending, income and debts, you’ll be able to better identify wasteful spending, adapt quickly to financial emergencies and begin to make headway on your future plans.

To learn more about how to create a budget that can work for you, check out our blog post MCU’s Tips for Creating an Effective Spending Plan.

3. Start Investing

Building an investment portfolio may be sitting at the bottom of your to-do list but it’s one of the most important keys to building long-term wealth.

If you feel like building a portfolio isn’t in your budget this year, easy-to-use mobile apps mean you can begin investing small amounts of money without the use of a financial manager. Most notably, spare change investment apps, like Acorns, encourage users to invest spare change using a system they call "round-ups." These apps monitor your bank account and automatically invests the change from your daily purchases.

Other apps will make it easy to make small investments without having to pay commission fees, or keeping an account minimum.

4. Create an Emergency Fund

Expecting the unexpected can be a tall order but having a financial safety net in place will help you to more easily withstand tough times. As you start planning for the year ahead, don’t forget to start paying into an emergency fund. A general rule of thumb is to set aside 3 to 6 months' worth of living expenses that can help you stay financially afloat in case of job loss , illness or an unexpected bill.

If you already have an emergency fund, you’re not in the clear just yet. Make sure that it’s still sufficient to cover your expenses since you last reviewed your financial obligations and responsibilities. You may find yourself needing a larger fund than you initially expected.

5. Become Properly Insured

Having the right insurance is important but overpaying for it isn’t. Now is a great time to take inventory on how your insurance is working for you now and consider if it will compliment any future plans you have for the coming year. Remember, as your life changes overtime, you may need more or less coverage in some areas of your life.

Whether it’s home; auto; health or renters insurance, price shopping can go a long way it’s recommended to request quotes from at least three providers before making a decision. However, don’t let the policy’s price be your only consideration. It’s important to make sure you understand what’s covered and how much protection you’d have from a new policy.

Be sure to do your homework on each of these new insurance providers and to note the details of the policies offered. In the end, you may decide to stick with your current provider but having official price quotes could help you negotiate the best deal possible.

6. Automate Payments

Chances are you already know how hard it can be to keep your finances organized on top of your day-to-day life. If one of your goals for the New Year is to better manage your money, automatic payments could just be the answer. Setting up automatic payments for fixed monthly bills like your cell phone or cable won’t just benefit you credit score, but will also help you stay organized and relieve stress.

7. Plan Your Retirement Account Contributions

Pay yourself first. Sticking to this simple rule will help you to ensure the financial wellbeing of your golden years. An easy way to get started is to participate in an employer sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b). These plans are especially helpful because your contribution, up to a certain percentage, is often matched by your employer. For example, they may offer to match up to 50 percent of the first five percent of your paycheck contributed to your retirement account or match you dollar-for-dollar up to six percent of your paycheck contributed.

If you already have a retirement account, now is a great time to take a look at how you can increase or optimize your contributions to better prepare you for the future.

POSTED: Dec 05, 2018
MCU’s Tips for Early Tax Prep

Tax season may be just around the corner but there’s no reason to panic. In fact, taking a few easy steps now could help make the process easier and simpler than in years past. Check out our tips for getting started below!

Check out our tips for getting started below!

1. Get Organized

You’ve been collecting important financial forms and receipts all year and now, new documents such as your annual W-2 form are ready to be reviewed. Keeping track of all of this paperwork can be overwhelming when it comes time to file your taxes but getting organized now can make a big difference.

Take time to locate and assemble all of the documents and important receipts you’ve obtained throughout the year, review exactly what you’ll need to successfully file your taxes, and begin the process of obtaining any missing forms. Doing this won’t just make filing your taxes easier when the time comes, but will also help you to avoid overlooking possible deductions that you’ll qualify for.

2. Consider Your Filing Status

Taxpayers can file under one of five filing statuses on their income tax form: Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Head of Household, Widow/Widower with Dependent Child.

Consider your options wisely – especially if there have been some big changes in your life this past year. The status you choose to file under can affect your filing requirements, standard deduction, and eligibility for certain credits, and your correct tax. It may even determine whether you have to file at all.

Learn more about how to choose the best filing status for your needs here.

3. Review Last Year’s Return and Make a Plan

The best way to prepare for filing your taxes, may just be taking a look back on how thing’s went last year. Consider areas that were problematic or deductions you missed out on and make a plan for how to improve your process going forward.

For example, if you had trouble if you had trouble verifying contributions you made to charity that have qualified you for a significant deduction, plan to start organizing these receipts now.

4. Make an Appointment with a Tax Professional

Whether you’re looking for start-to-finish help filing your taxes or just some professional guidance along the way, setting up an appointment with a tax preparer is always a smart idea. And the earlier you meet with a professional, the more time you’ll have to be prepared come Tax Day.

Be sure that the professional you choose has a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and is authorized to prepare federal income tax returns. It’s also important to ask upfront about the cost of their services , which likely will depend on the complexity of your tax return.

POSTED: Nov 02, 2018
MCU’s End-of-Year Financial Checklist

The end of year can come with many distractions – holiday shopping, parties, vacations and even the occasional gift-swap are enough to keep you busy. If it’s going by in a flash, we recommend hitting the pause button for just a moment and considering your financial goals.

You may not know it by now is a great time to make sure you pay special attention to your finances and take steps that will help you get ready for both next year and well into the future.

Check out our tips below!

1. Contribute to Your Emergency Fund

Saving is a problem for many Americans. In fact, nearly 40 percent of US workers have reported having less than $1,000 in savings to cover an emergency. You may have a lot of big plans in mind for the New Year but before you start working toward exciting financial goals, it’s important make sure your safety net is in place. A general rule of thumb is to set aside 3 to 6 months' worth of living expenses for an emergency fund in case of job loss, illness or an unexpected bill.

While the holiday season can be expensive, setting up a rainy day fund is still possible. Savers can use money given as gifts or end-of-year bonuses to start building out their emergency fund. In other cases, a conversation with a significant other or spouse about the importance of building a nest egg could lead to forgoing large gifts in lieu of saving this year.

2. Max Out Your IRA or Roth IRA Contributions

If you’ve set up a traditional or Roth IRA in preparation for your retirement, you already know the benefits. Individuals younger than 50 can contribute $5,500 each year and individuals 50 and older can contribute $6,500 each year, while compounding tax-free earnings over their entire life. These accounts can also be used to withdraw funds without penalty for various reasons such as qualified higher education expenses and medical expenses.

While these accounts are important tools for your future, it’s important to remember that you can’t make up lost ground when it comes to your contributions. If you don’t max out your contribution for the year, you’re essentially leaving money on the table with missed tax benefits and potential growth from dividends and appreciation.

Even if you can't max out your IRA, putting as much money towards this account before the end of the tax year is extremely important for preparing for the future.

3. Get the Right Insurance Coverage

The end of the year is a time of reflection and we’re not talking about being sentimental. If a lot’s changed over the past year, your insurance will need to as well. As your life changes overtime, you may need more or less coverage in some areas of your life.

Having the right insurance is important but overpaying for it isn’t. Whether it’s home; auto; health or renters insurance, price shopping can go a long way. it’s recommended to request quotes from at least three providers before making a decision. But don’t let the policy price be the end all be all to your search it’s important to make sure you understand what’s covered and how much protection you’d have from a new policy.

Be sure to do your homework on each of these new insurance providers and to note the details of the policies offered. In the end, you may decide to stick with your current provider but having official price quotes could help you negotiate the best deal possible.

4. Start a 529 Pan for Your Kids

While helping your children pay for college may feel even further away than facing retirement, letting another year go by without starting a 529 Plan for each of your children is an expensive mistake. Starting one of these tax-advantaged investment accounts early on will allow many parents and guardians to open to save for a child’s college costs, including tuition; room and board; supplies and textbooks.

These plans are all similar to Roth 401(k) or Roth IRA. Earnings in a 529 plan grow federal tax-free and will not be taxed when the money is withdrawn (as long as it is used for college). So it’s no wonder that earlier you open an account, the better.

5. Make a Tax-Deducible Charitable Donation

Making a charitable donation won’t just help those in need, but will also work to your advantage when you file your taxes. And while you can do this at an any time during the year, the holiday season is the perfect time to check this good deed off of your list.

Many donations, which can be monetary or in-kind, can be deducted on your taxes if they are made before the end of the calendar year. In order to ensure that your donations work to your advantage during tax time, donors are encouraged to ensure that the charity is eligible for a tax deduction at IRS.gov. Keep in mind that donations to churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and government agencies are eligible to receive deductible donations even if they are not listed in the tool’s database.

It’s also important to record these donations throughout the year and to get receipts, which include the name of the charity, description of the donation and the date of the donation

6. Set Up Automatic Payments

Chances are you already know how hard it can be to keep your finances organized on top of your day-to-day life. If one of your goals for the New Year is to better manage your money, automatic payments could just be the answer. Setting up automatic payments for fixed monthly bills like your cell phone or cable won’t just benefit you credit score, but will also help you to stay organized and relieve stress over payments.

POSTED: Oct 30, 2018
MCU’s Guide to Gift-Giving on a Budget

There’s a lot to love about the holidays, but if the Season of Giving is putting a strain on you and your finances, you’re definitely not alone. In fact, according to a 2017 American Psychological Association Survey, approximately 62 percent of Americans report feeling stressed about money during the holidays

While you may have friends or family members who like to splurge during the holidays, remember it’s not a competition and purchasing gifts should never affect your long or short-term financial goals. Luckily, celebrating the holidays and showing your loved ones that you care doesn’t have to break the bank – you may even discover that what you end up giving – yourself, your time, or your talents – ends up meaning more than you could imagine!

Check out our tips for staying on budget this season below.

1. Be Realistic with Your Budget

Like with any financial situation, creating a budget is going to be an important part of navigating your expenses. Keep in mind that your gift-giving budget for the holidays is essentially the money you can reasonably spend on gifts without tapping into the funds you need for other expenses, such as bills and groceries.

The key to any successful budget it to set limits and to stick to them. Remember to be realistic about the funds available to you and what you can sacrifice to help come up with extra cash. For example, giving up your morning run to a gourmet coffee shop for a month to help cover the cost of a gift may be reasonable but cutting back on your grocery bill probably won’t be.

2. Make a List (and Check it Twice)

The holidays can come with a lot of pressure to show your appreciation for the people in your life – friends, family, coworkers – even your mail carrier! Remember that saying thank you doesn’t have to mean spending money. To help stay on budget this season, limit your gift list. As a good rule of thumb, if your shopping list includes more than five people outside of your immediate family, it’s time to start cutting back.

However, just because you won’t be buying gifts for some friends and coworkers, doesn’t mean you can’t spread holiday cheer. In lieu of presents, we recommend choosing to bake treats, write notes or do something thoughtful – these acts can go a surprisingly long way!

3. Give Your Time

As mentioned above, sometimes giving things other than gifts is a great way to stay on budget while also celebrating the holidays. Don’t forget, that means giving your time as well – sometimes, all loved ones really want is a visit.

Our advice: Chances are your friends are also struggling with their budgets this season. Take the pressure off everyone by organizing a group volunteer event in lieu of gifts or and expensive holiday party. You'll get to spend quality time together - plus, you'll come out of the day feeling proud of your efforts rather than suffering from buyer's remorse, and anyone can benefit from volunteering.

4. Use Coupons to Your Advantage

It’s no secret that Black Friday and Cyber Monday mean big sales, but don’t forget about the deals and opportunities running all season-long. Before you shop online, check for coupon codes you can use at your favorite online stores and keep an eye out for coupons you received in your mailbox before hitting the mall. Like with any big purchases, it’s also a great idea to price shop to make sure that a seemingly good deal is actually one worth your time (and cash).

Taking just a short amount of time to research these deals and offers can go a long way – it can even help you to save hundreds of dollars throughout the holiday season!

5. Give Thoughtful Gifts

Remember, a thoughtful gift is worth more than an expensive one. You may feel compelled to go all out for your loved ones during the holidays but sometimes just taking a few extra days to think about the things that really matter to them, could mean finding the perfect gift at an inexpensive price. For example, a first edition of copy of a family member’s favorite book that you pulled out of a second-hand bookstore may be cherished forever, while the novelty of a new (and expensive) gadget could wear off in just days.

6. Plan Ahead

Making small changes to plan ahead for the holidays can make a big difference in relieving holiday financial stress. For example, setting up an account that will keep your keep your everyday expenses separate from your seasonable one will help to keep your from spending the funds will help you to both build out a holiday budget over time and help you not dip into your savings.

For MCU Members, the MCU Holiday Club Account is a great way to save, plan and manage your money for the upcoming holidays. With as little as $5.00 down, you can make direct deposits with each paycheck and watch your savings grow. On November 1, the funds will be transferred to your FasTrack Checking or Share Account for easy access. To start saving for next year’s holiday season, sign up for an MCU Holiday Club Account today!

POSTED: Oct 09, 2018
MCU’s Tips for Hiring the Right Real Estate Agent

If you’re getting serious about buying a home, it’s time to hire a real estate agent. These professionals can be a huge asset in making your home-buying process go smoothly – they offer knowledge of the real estate market, prescreen properties, ask tough questions about a home’s condition and help with negotiations. They serve as a resource who listens and has no problem answering any questions that are asked of him or her.

However, the wrong agent can make your process more difficult by being inexperienced, unresponsive, inflexible, or tone deaf to your needs. They can really set you back in your search or even worse, put you in the wrong home.

If you’re not sure how to get started when it comes to picking the right agent, we’re here to help. Check out our tips below!

1. Take in reviews and recommendations.

Don’t just call the first name you see on a “For Sale” sign. When it comes to finding a real estate agent, recommendations from friends and family members are a good place to start your search. Your loved ones almost always only recommend professionals or services that they trust, have had a great experience working with and believe that could be a real help to you.

Sounds great, right? These recommendations are a helpful point in the right direction but you’ll still have to do your homework. We recommend following up with an internet search before contacting an agent – check their reviews on Yelp and other community boards. These will give you the best idea about how communicative, responsive, helpful and efficient and agent is across the board, not just in one or two experiences.

2. Verify licensing and credentials.

Before moving ahead with any real estate agent, take the time to find out about their credentials. An agent has a responsibility to represent clients ethically and legally. Because of this, agents – like many professionals – need to have the right licensing and accreditations to work with you.

It’s also important to note that agents may have different specialties and additional training in particular areas that could work to your advantage during your home-buying process. Knowing how to recognize these accreditations, usually abbreviated and listed after a broker’s name, can help you make the best choice. Some of these special titles may include:

  • • Certified Residential Specialist (CRS)

  • • Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR)

  • • Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES)


Ask the real estate agent for their license number and full professional name and write this information down. To verify their credentials, homebuyers can visit Arello.org and search the database.

3. Check the agent’s listings.

Location, location, location – it’s the first rule of real estate. A realtor may have great credentials and outstanding reviews, but how well do they know the neighborhoods you’re interested in? Before moving forward with an agent, ask them about their track record in the towns and communities you like and check their listings online on their website and other real estate websites.

Does the agent have a good inventory of homes in or near the areas you like? Is the price range similar? How much business does it look like their doing in your neighborhoods of interest? The key is to feel confident that your agent really knows the area and can show you a wide range of homes in the locations that you like without being too busy or in demand that they won’t have time to work with you as much as they should.

4. Know the contract requirements.

An agent will almost always require that you sign a contract with them before you begin working together. While it’s a standard practice, you should fully read and understand what the agreement entails and if the terms are fair and complimentary to your needs before signing it.

These contracts may include a buyer's broker agreement, which is typically a 90-day or more commitment reflecting the availability of the broker, compensation for the broker and even a range of neighborhoods you’ll be shopping in. It may even include penalties if you go ahead and purchase a home that was initially shown to you by the broker but purchase without them. Knowing the ins and outs of an agreement with your agent could make all the difference in your home-buying experience.

5. Understand the difference between a seller’s agent and a buyer’s agent

Typically there are two brokers in a purchase transaction; the broker that represents you (the buyer’s agent) and the broker that is representing the seller (the seller’s/listing agent). If you start shopping for a home without a buyer’s agent, you may interact and begin working with the listing agent for the home.

Realtors are typically paid solely on commission. That means that they have a financial incentive to sell you the homes that they are listing. When a broker is able to sell you a home as the sole broker in the transaction, they will be earning maximum commission on the transaction because they will not have to split their commission with another person. This means that the realtor may not have your best interests in mind. You should especially be wary of referrals offered by the listing agent for an attorney to represent you. Often that attorney will have the agent’s, not your interests at heart.

6. Price Shop Your Insurance

Having the right insurance is important but overpaying for it isn’t. Whether it’s home; auto; health or renters insurance, price shopping can go a long way.

it’s recommended to request quotes from at least three providers before making a decision. But don’t let the policy price be the end all be all to your search. As your life changes overtime, you may need more or less coverage in some areas of your life. This is why it’s important to make sure you understand what’s covered and how much protection you’d have from a new policy.

Be sure to do your homework on each of these new insurance providers and to note the details of the policies offered. In the end, you may decide to stick with your current provider but having official price quotes could help you negotiate the best deal possible.

POSTED: Oct 09, 2018
MCU’s Five Things to Know: Black Friday Shopping Tips

The holiday season is about family, friends, gratitude and shopping – lots and lots of shopping. And with Black Friday signaling the unofficial countdown to the holidays, it’s no wonder why more than 100 million Americans braved the crowds last year in search of great deals. However, while Black Friday is known for its super sales, many consumers can find themselves overwhelmed and/or (really) overspending if they’re not prepared.

Whether you’re a Black Friday veteran or a newbie looking to get in on the shopping fun this year, check out our tips below to get the best deals and avoid expensive mistakes.

1. Make a List and Set a Budget

Hey, Santa makes a list and checks it twice so why shouldn’t the rest of us?

The promise of great sales may have you itching to grab your wallet but shopping without a plan could turn your trip into an empty-handed flop – or even worse, a pricy bill you weren’t anticipating. Whether you’re shopping for much-needed staples for your own home or gifts for your loved ones (or both!), have a list of items written down along with a set amount you’re comfortable spending. This won’t only help you save time in the shops , but will help you avoid unnecessary purchases along the way.

2. Do Your Homework

If offers like “75 Percent Off” and "Buy Two, Get One Free” are quick to tempt you into an impulse buy, you’re definitely not alone. Retailers know that shoppers love scoring great deals and can rationalize overspending if it means getting a great deal. This is one reason some retailers inflate the retail ticket price before marking it down or advertising an appealing bundle. This is known as false benchmarking, and it’s done to make you believe that the item you’re buying is worth a lot more than what you’re spending.

Doing research ahead of time on the items you have your eye on will help you know the difference between a good deal, a great deal and no deal at all. The internet is the great equalizer when it comes to comparing prices and even different comparable products – take your time and browse retailer websites as well as online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.

Don’t forget that a deal today could be a dud tomorrow. If there’s an item you really have your eye on, check out advertised Cyber Monday Sales – they could be even more competitive than the ones you’ll see on Black Friday!

3. Keep a Positive Attitude

Sometimes, attitude really is everything. Lines and crowds are inevitable when you go Black Friday Shopping and the stress of the outing can begin before you even find a parking spot. Remember patience and an upbeat attitude are going to be the keys to finding all of your purchases and having a great time. Remember, the employees in the store are there to help you navigate the crowds and lines. Be courteous and polite. They are working very late and very long hours to make Black Friday happen. Try not to be disrespectful towards them because, odds are, they already don't want to be there themselves and just want to help you in any way possible.

4. Be Mindful of Your Belongings

You wouldn’t keep your handbag open on a crowded New York City subway car or leave shopping bags on a bench in Central Park. Shopping in a crowded place is no different and Black Friday can really bring in the crowds. Keep an eye on both your personal belongings and your new purchases at all times. If you find yourself carrying too many bags, don’t risk accidentally leaving one behind. Shop with a friend who can offer an extra pair of hands and eyes or make a stop at your vehicle to drop off items (be sure to cover them with a blanket or coat to avoid someone breaking into your car).

5. Keep an Eye on Your Transactions

Identity thieves are always looking for ways to victimize unsuspecting consumers. And between the distractions of the season and increased spending, the holidays can offer many opportunities for them to do so. To help protect yourself best, keep a close on eye on your account activity to see whether funds have been withdrawn that you didn't authorize. As an additional precaution, it’s recommended to set up alerts mobile or text banking alerts so that you're notified when funds are withdrawn.

The sooner you spot any authorized transactions, the sooner you can report them. Acting fast limits your liability for charges you didn’t authorize. Once you report the loss of your ATM or debit card, federal law says you cannot be held liable for unauthorized transfers that occur after that time.

POSTED: Oct 03, 2018
MCU’s Tips and Tricks for Cutting Costs

Whether you’re saving for a major purchase, making long-term plans or working to get yourself financially back on track, creating a spending plan to meet your goals will likely mean cutting costs and prioritizing your spending. If it seems daunting, we have good news. Paring down on your expenses doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing the things you love.

Instead, making a few small changes can go a long way in helping you to save cash and work towards reaching your financial goals. Check out our tips below!

1. Bundle Services When You Can

Your phone, TV and internet service may be staples in your home but that doesn’t mean you’re not overpaying for them. By bundling these amenities, you’ll not only get a better deal but you’ll simplify paying your bills at the end of the month. You may have recently received bundle promotions from a provider but before you take them up on it, it’s important to know that not all deals are created equal and shopping around to compare pricing is an important step in getting the best deal possible.

If you’re looking go a bit further, consider paring down on these services or eliminating them entirely. According a report by Fast Company, more than 5 million Americans will pull the plug on pay TV in 2018 alone, instead opting for online streaming like hulu or Netflix.

2. Mind Your Utility Bills

Your utilities are probably costing you more than they need to be. No, we aren’t suggesting that you try to generate your own power with a bicycle. Instead, easy changes such as replacing old light bulbs with energy efficient ones and unplugging small electronics like your coffee maker or laptop when they’re not in use to avoid “vampire drain” can easily help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars over time.

Additionally, keeping an eye on your heating and cooling can make a big difference. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, lowering your home’s thermostat by 10-15 degrees while you’re at work, asleep or away can reduce your energy bill by nearly 10 percent!

A programmable thermostat can help you easily get into this money-saving practice by automatically adjusting the temperature of your home based on your work and sleep habits. It can also greatly improve your general comfort levels by already beginning to bring the temperature back up before you return home or wake up.

3. You (and Your Budget) are what You Eat

The answer to saving money may just be found at the dinner table. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic, the average American household spends about $3,000 a year dining out – that includes singles spending only on themselves too.

If you’re looking to curb your expenses, it’s time to pay a visit to your local grocery story. And when you do go shopping, we recommend preparing ahead of time – by making a list of all of the items that you’ll need for the week, you’ll be less likely to make impulse purchases or buy too many items, which might eventually end up spoiling before you can use them (talk about throwing money away). And don’t forget to use coupons or store membership discounts! These can end up saving you hundreds of dollars over the course of a month.

4. Consolidate Your Debts

Debt is nothing new to Americans. According to a 2017 study conducted by Nerd Wallet, the average household carrying credit card debt has a balance of $15,654. Paying down debt can be daunting, but taking on multiple high interest fees can make it feel nearly impossible. In these instances, debt consolidation may be a smart way to make your debt more manageable and reduce your interest rate fees.

One of the most popular ways to consolidate debt is to transfer the balances of several higher-rate credit cards to a card with lower fees and (ideally) a zero percent APR introductory rate and a lower, more favorable rate after that. Borrowers can take advantage of this grace period to take advantage of paying down the principle of their debt.

A second common form of debt consolidation is to take out a loan (typically a Home Equity Line of Credit or a personal loan) large enough to pay off multiple creditors at once. Once your multiple bills have been consolidated into just one monthly payment, a borrower will not only have a much easier time keeping track of payments but could potentially save hundreds or thousands of dollars in interest.

5. Curb Your Bad Habits

Bad habits – we all have them. However, some may be costing you more than others. For example, cigarettes aren’t just bad for your health, they’re terrible for your bank account. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average cost of a pack of cigarettes is $6.28, which means a pack-a-day habit sets you back $188 per month or $2,292 per year. (Yikes!)

Less obvious and seemingly benign vices can also run up a bill. A morning cup of coffee at a gourmet café can cost you nearly $1,200 per year and driving everywhere (instead of opting for carpools or public transportation) won’t just add constant wear and tear to your vehicle but will leave you constantly paying to fill up your gas tank.

Overall, ditching some bad habits will mean making better decisions for your budget and lifestyle.

6. Price Shop Your Insurance

Having the right insurance is important but overpaying for it isn’t. Whether it’s home; auto; health or renters insurance, price shopping can go a long way.

it’s recommended to request quotes from at least three providers before making a decision. But don’t let the policy price be the end all be all to your search. As your life changes overtime, you may need more or less coverage in some areas of your life. This is why it’s important to make sure you understand what’s covered and how much protection you’d have from a new policy.

Be sure to do your homework on each of these new insurance providers and to note the details of the policies offered. In the end, you may decide to stick with your current provider but having official price quotes could help you negotiate the best deal possible.

POSTED: Oct 01, 2018
MCU Scam Roundup: Fall 2018

Identity theft is on the rise. According to the recently released 2018 Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy & Research, the number of identity fraud victims increased by eight percent last year, rising to 16.7 million U.S. consumers. And as identity thieves are becoming increasingly sophisticated, they’re combining old tricks with new technology and strategies to gain access to personal and financial information.

Staying informed is key. Check out some of the latest scams and schemes being used by identity thieves and scammers below!

1. Avoid the Trials (and Tribulations) of a Jury Duty Scam

Government and tax scams are nothing new to consumers. And while you’ve learned to recognize this kind of fraud, a similar but new scheme could have you letting your guard down. The culprit? Jury duty scams.

Here’s how it works. You get a text, call, or email from someone who says they’re with the government. They say you’ve been flagged for missing jury duty and that you’ll need to pay a fine. Scammers may even try to make this ploy seem legitimate by providing a badge number or some of your personal information, such as the four digits of your Social Security number.

Consider what your financial situation will look like if you’re not repaid and how it will affect both your long and short term goals.

Once they’ve convinced you of their credibility, the scammer will then resort to scaring their victims to act quickly by threatening you with repercussions including legal action, deportation, or arrest if you don’t pay up or give them your financial information.

What you should do:

  • • Never send money – especially by gift card or money transfer. Remember that no government agency will threaten you or demand payment this way.

  • • Don’t give out your personal or financial information to anyone who calls, texts, or emails.

  • • If you have sent money to a scammer, contact the company you used to send the money (gift card company, cash reload card company, or wire transfer service) and tell them it was a fraudulent transaction. Ask to have the transaction reversed if possible.

  • • Report this incident to the Federal Trade Comission (FTC) at FTC.gov/complaint and to the real utility company.

2. Don’t get Burned by Utility Scams

Life can get really busy at times so getting a call from a utility company informing you that you’ve missed a bill payment may not seem out of the realm of possibility. That’s why utility scams are reportedly on the rise.

You may get a call saying that your electricity or water will be shut off unless you pay a past due bill. And even if you believe that you’re up-to-date on all of your bills, the caller may sound convincing enough to have you thinking otherwise. Plus, the prospect of losing your electricity could scare you into reacting quickly.

What you should do:

  • • Know that utility companies don’t demand banking information by email or phone. They also won’t insist that you need to make a payment by phone as your only option.

  • • Never send money – especially by gift card, cash reload card, or money transfer. Remember that no utility company will threaten you or demand payment this way.

  • • Contact the utility company directly using the number on your paper bill or on the company’s official website to confirm your overdue payment. Don’t call any number the caller gave you.

  • • Report this incident to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint and to the real utility company.

3. Hang Up on Medicare Card Scammers

In recent months, Medicare announced that they will be sending new cards to everyone who gets Medicare benefits, replacing your Social Security number with a new identification number. And as expected, scammers are taking advantage of the opportunity to victimize innocent people.

These thieves are reaching out by phone and have tried a few different tactics in order to gain access to your personal and financial information. In some instances, they claim to be a Medicare representative looking to verify your sensitive information. In other scenarios, they may try to persuade you to pay an upfront fee (which does not exist) for your new card. Others scammers may claim that your Medicare card was compromised and that you need to move your money from your bank into “safer accounts”.

What you should do:

  • • Never give out personal information to get your new Medicare card. If someone calls claiming to be from Medicare, requesting any financial and/or sensitive information, you can be sure it’s a scam.

  • • Know that your new Medicare card is free and that under no circumstances should you have to pay to receive a new one. If anyone calls and says you need to pay for it, that’s a scam. Hang up.

  • • If you’ve already given out your bank account information over the phone, talk to your bank immediately. You’ll want to deal with any unauthorized activity on your account as soon as possible.

  • • For more information about the new Medicare card rollout, visit go.medicare.gov/newcard.

POSTED: Sep 20, 2018
A Guide to Prioritizing Goals for a Financially Fit Budget

Picture this: Rent is due, credit card bills are piling up, your car’s “check engine” light is on and an emergency trip to the dentist is leaving you feeling more than just a toothache.

When it comes to expenses, when it rains – sometimes it really pours. And if you’re overwhelmed, you’re definitely not alone. According to Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning & Progress Study, money is the leading cause of stress among Americans.

Staying financially fit in both good and bad times can seem like a tall order. However, building a budget with certain long and short-term priorities in mind could just be the solution to staying afloat and reaching new goals.

Check out our tips below!

1. Start with a retirement account.

If you think it’s okay to put “saving for retirement” at the bottom of your to-do list, it’s time to think again.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, nearly half of all Americans don’t have any savings at all set aside for a time when they will stop working. While it can feel logical to put off planning for the retirement when pressing financial obligations are facing you today, many financial planners consider planning for retirement (even in small contributions) to be a top priority.

Pay yourself first. It’s a simple rule that will help you to ensure the financial wellbeing of your golden years. An easy way to get started is to participate in an employer sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b). These plans are especially helpful because your contribution, up to a certain percentage, is often matched by your employer. For example, they may offer to match up to 50 percent of the first five percent of your paycheck contributed to your retirement account or match you dollar-for-dollar up to six percent of your paycheck contributed.

2. Pay down your high-interest debt ASAP.

It’s nearly impossible to move forward with your goals if you have high-interest debt holding you back. And if you’re not actively working to pay it down, your debt is compounding expensive interest every month, making it even more difficult to eliminate. It can be a hard cycle to break but not dealing with your high-interest debt will only cause greater issues down the road.

This kind of debt will have interest rates in the double digits (sometimes as much at 29 percent APR) and usually comes in the form of payday loans, credit cards, and even some auto loans.

In addition to freeing up cash, paying down your high-interest debt will also improve your credit score. This may open doors for you to take on new financial goals, such as buying a home.

To get started on strategically paying down your debt, check out our tips here.

3. Don’t forget an emergency fund.

You’ve started planning for the future and your debt is under control – so you’re ready to start enjoying what’s left of your budget, right? Not quite yet. Before you start to make large purchases and expensive commitments, you should have an emergency fund set aside from your other savings. This is an important financial step because it can keep you from resorting to taking on high-interest deb or making desperate financial decisions in tough times.

A general rule of thumb is to put away three to six months' worth of living expenses for an emergency fund in case of job loss, illness or an unexpected bill.

4. Protect yourself with (the right) insurance.

An emergency fund won’t cover you in every unforeseen situation. In order to protect yourself from potentially financially crippling setbacks, it’s important to not just buy insurance, but to make sure you continue the right coverage and policies that will protect you as your lifestyle and circumstances changes over time.

Not purchasing insurance might save you some money each month but may just be a (very) expensive mistake down the road. For example, renter’s insurance might cost you $100 annually but without coverage, you could find yourself spending thousands of dollars to replace electronics, furniture and personal belongings in the event of a fire or burglary.

5. Be SMART about your short and long-term goals.

Planning for retirement, creating an emergency fund, paying down debts, and purchasing insurance will put you in an overall good financial position. However, this planning won’t account for your unique and individual short and long-term goals.

Do you want to start a business? Buy a house? Save for a child’s college education?

In order to work towards your goals, you’ll need to make them specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely (SMART). This will help you to create an effective plan, help you to avoid distractions (like a new pair of shoes you don’t need or a weekend away you can’t really afford) and give you an idea about how you’ll need to manage your finances in preparation for these goals.

For example, simply saying that you want to purchase a car doesn’t give you a lot of structure or understanding in how and when you want to reach your ultimate goal. Instead, saying that you want to make a $15,000 down payment on a vehicle within the next two years as an investment in improving your commute to work will make it easier for you to stay focused and manage your money in a way that will help you to become a car owner.

POSTED: Sep 20, 2018
MCU’s Five Things to Know: Lending Money to Loved Ones

Loved ones and money. It’s a duo that can often make for a sticky situation. In fact, according to a recent study, more than half of consumers have seen a friendship end over money owed and 77 percent of Americans believe IOUs are harmful to friendships. However, while logic says to steer clear, finding yourself in a situation where a friend or family member needs help, could cause you to think twice.

The desire help and the need to protect your own finances (and your relationship with your loved ones) is a very tough line to walk. Check out our tips below.

1. Decide if you can really afford it.

As the old saying goes, don’t lend anything you aren’t willing to lose. You want to help, but it’s important to calculate if you can truly afford to both lay out money right now and possibly not get it back for a long period of time (or even at all).

Remember, if a loved one is coming to you for help, their other options are likely exhausted. This means that the odds are he or she does not have strong enough credit history to seek a loan via traditional means and that repayment may not come quickly or smoothly.

Consider what your financial situation will look like if you’re not repaid and how it will affect both your long and short term goals.

And don’t forget your relationship with your loved one – can it afford the possible strain that comes when money is involved? Is the relationship more important? Or are you more concerned about repayment? It’s best to figure this out ahead of time before you’re forced to deal with it in reality.

2. Be honest – discuss the terms of the loan and your expectations.

Before giving your friend or family member a loan, it’s important to have an honest and open conversation about what you want and expect from the arrangement.

For example, it may be very important to you to be fully repaid within a year. And while this may seem like common sense or decency to you, if you don’t bring it up, your loved one may have completely different ideas. This simple miscommunication could lead to resentment, arguments and even the loss of your relationship.

Instead, have an in-person conversation to iron out the details on the loan. Discuss interest, means of payment (in cash, wire transfer, check, etc.) and repayment installments. In some instances, the borrower may even have special skills – such as auto repair or plumbing. Consider if you’re willing to make a “trade” and accept services in lieu of cash. If you’re not comfortable accepting services as a form of repayment, make it clear. Otherwise, the borrower may believe that they will be able to pay off at least part of their debt through these services down the road.

This is also a good time to manage your loved one’s expectations and to make it clear that you only intend to lend them money once.

3. Put your agreement on paper and get it notarized.

Don’t seal the deal with a handshake. Formal agreements with friends and family may feel awkward but they can go a long way. As time goes on, memories will fade; priorities get shifted and clashing opinions over what you originally agreed to can cause problems between friends or family.

At the very least, you should draw up a written agreement and have each party sign. If you’re lending a significant amount of money, make your agreement official by drawing up loan documents and getting them notarized. This will also make it more likely that the borrower will take the loan seriously and pay it back on time.

This formal agreement will also give you the opportunity to pursue legal recourse if the money isn’t repaid on time or the borrower doesn’t follow through on your agreement in any way.

4. Not comfortable? It’s okay to say no.

Keep in mind that loved ones typically won’t ask for financial help unless their situation is desperate. Because of this, being approached for money can feel like a cruddy situation for both individuals. And while the urgency of the situation and your feelings for your friend or family member might make you feel compelled (or even guilted) to help, it’s always recommended to just say no if you’re not truly comfortable.

Lending money when you’re not fully onboard with the idea or uncertain about how it might affect you will likely leave you feeling resentful and may ultimately damage your relationship with your friend or family member. Remember, choosing not to lend money doesn’t make you selfish or a bad friend, it may actually protect your relationship.

5. Don’t forget that help doesn’t always have to be monetary.

When the bills are piling up and a person is anxiously trying to find a source of money, offering other kinds of help instead of cash may not be received well initially. However, a true friend or relative will be willing to accept your decline to lend money.

Not sure what you can do? Help can come in many forms, which includes offering to take a look at a loved one’s finances and budget. A second set of eyes may just be the answer to helping your friend find a way to rework their current financial situation to avoid needing a loan in general. Calculate income and expenses, and see what can be cut from the budget. Determine if a more manageable repayment plan is an option for current debts due.

You can also offer to help a loved on host a garage sale, provide a service that might otherwise be expensive (yard work, electrical work, auto repair, etc.) or even offer to go shopping with them so they can take advantage of a membership discount you may have with a store. A little can go a long way when it comes to helping a loved one get back on their feet!

POSTED: Sep 11, 2018
MCU’s Five Things to Know: Financially Planning Your Wedding

You may have big ideas for your dream wedding but the reality is planning your big day takes patience, cooperation and money – a lot of it. According to leading digital wedding brand The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in the United States was more than $33,000 in 2017. If that sounds expensive, it is. In fact, the same survey found that 45 percent of couples who married last year admitted to going over budget.

To start financially planning for your wedding, check out our tips below!

1. Discuss your budget and financial resources.

Tradition might suggest that that bride’s family pays for the majority of a wedding but in today’s day and age, tackling the cost of a wedding is most likely a combined effort between both partners and their families (if they’re able to help).

Before you can commit to making deposits for your vendors or even picking out your venue, you and your partner will have to talk about your budget – how much each of you are you willing to spend and, essentially, who will be footing each part of the bill. As a couple, build your budget around your current savings (excluding retirement and emergency funds), what you can save from your monthly income and any contributions from family members.

2. Keep perspective – don’t forget how the cost of your wedding may affect your other goals and obligations.

It can be easy for couples to be tempted with more expensive options and upgrades. It’s your dream wedding, after all. However, it’s important to remember the goals and plans that are waiting for you after the last piece of wedding cake is eaten and the DJ plays the last song of the evening.

When creating a financial plan for your wedding, don’t forget to factor in your everyday expenses, financial commitments and goals and how the cost of your big day could affect them. You may be trying to aggressively pay down student loan debt or are working towards purchasing a home. Remember, your financial choices while planning your wedding should reflect these goals and compliment them. There may be some give and take with your overall budget, but your wedding shouldn’t completely derail your other plans.

3. Explore DIY projects.

If you’re envisioning a lot of glue and tissue paper when we say do-it-yourself, think again. Taking time to figure out what you can do on your own can help skirt some of the costs that may otherwise put you over budget. This is an easy way to save money, prioritize details and evaluate exactly how much help and money you actually need.

It may take time and patience but couples can easily manage some of the details of their wedding without the cost of a vendor. This may include designing and printing your own wedding invitations, assembling your own bouquets, catering your own bridal shower or engagement party and even forgoing the cost of a day-of coordinator by asking a friend for a little extra help.

4. Price shop your vendors.

Like any major purchase, it’s important to shop with your head instead of your heart when planning your wedding. Couples should be sure to shop around and compare pricing for different vendors, venues, services and other miscellaneous wedding items. While this can take time and even some discipline, shopping around will help you to avoid dipping into your budget more than you have to.

To get the best idea for both fair pricing and options available to you in your budget, couples should find and compare at least three prices for each item on their list. This may include flowers, entertainment, venues and caterers.

If you do happen to fall in love with a vendor that is a financial stretch, having formal proposals from other competitive vendors may help you to negotiate a better price.

5. Consider your financing options.

You may have had tough conversations about money, compared vendors and created your budget. However, if you still need help paying for your wedding, you’re certainly not alone. According to The Knot, 74 percent of couples will use some form of financing to cover their big day.

While it may be common, it’s important for couples to carefully consider all of their choices in to avoid options, such as high interest credit cards, that will ultimately make your big day much more expensive than necessary.

Financing options such as personal loans, home equity lines of credit and even wedding loans may be great, low-interest borrowing options that can make your day possible and affordable. Be sure to fully explore these options to find the financing that will work best for you.

POSTED: Aug 29, 2018
Considerations Every Couple Should Make Before Opening a Joint Banking Account

First comes love, then comes marriage then comes…a joint account?

It may not be romantic, but for many, it’s true. In fact, according to a recent Bankrate survey, 77 percent of married couples choose to open at least one financial account together. And it’s easy to understand why. If you're married; living with your partner or in a relationship with someone you trust, opening a joint account together could be a much more convenient approach to managing shared bills and budget for expenses.

However, a joint account can also cause a lot of conflict in a relationship if both parties aren’t on the same page. Having an honest conversation about finances and other important considerations can be tough but it’s also the key to successfully managing your money with your partner.

Check out some of the important considerations every couple should make before combining their funds below!

1. Goals

What are your long and short and long-term goals and how are you financially planning for them? Opening a joint account is oftentimes an important step in planning for the future with your significant other so it’s important to talk about your vision and hopes for what’s ahead. Discussing both your personal and shared financial goals will help you decide the best way to combine funds, manage an account and practice similar financial habits.

2. Financial Obligations and Debt

Combining your finances also means potentially combining your financial responsibilities. Before you start the process of opening a joint account and committing to how much of your paycheck you’ll be contributing each pay period, it’s important to be honest about any debt you’re carrying or financial obligations you’re committed to. This may include student debt, credit card bills, child support, car payments or medical expenses.

If you are carrying debt or any of these financial obligations, it will be important for you and your partner to decide if paying for these expenses will be a joint or individual effort. Discussing these details in depth will help a couple create a financial plan that will work for their needs.

3. Spending Habits and Financial Attitudes

You may know your partner’s favorite pizza joint and television show but how well do you know their spending habits? Are they a penny-pincher or an impulse shopper? A gift-giver or a gambler?

Successfully combining your money means understanding how your spending habits and financial attitudes will work together, the expectations you both have and the compromises you’ll both have to make. Your habits don’t have to be identical but both parties should know have a full understanding of their partner’s relationship with money and how those habits may affect them and their shared funds.

4. It’s not for Every Couple

While sharing a bank account can simplify managing your finances, remember, combining funds isn’t right for every couple. In fact, an increasing number of couples are choosing to keep their finances separate. If you and your partner don’t feel comfortable sharing an account, or you’re struggling to work together in blending your goals; habits and attitudes, don’t feel pressured to take the plunge. Instead, feel confident to discuss other financial arrangements that could work for your relationship.

POSTED: Aug 17, 2018
Financial Goals Everybody Should Achieve Before 30

A lot changes in your 20’s – graduations, new jobs, first apartments, relationships and much more! While there are endless ways to enjoy this part of your life, reaching certain financial milestones before turning 30 is an important step for every young person.

Check them out below!

1. Establish Financial Independence From Your Parents

Before you can look to the future, you’ll need to break old habits – especially financial ones. It’s not uncommon for parents to want to help their kids out. In fact, according to a 2017 Harris Poll, 56 percent of parents have admitted to paying for their adult child’s grocery bill, 40 percent have covered their adult child’s health insurance and 21 percent have paid for their adult child’s rent or housing.

While it may seem harmless, relying on financial assistance is actually holding you back. Establishing financial independence from your parents or loved ones in your 20’s is important step in becoming a self-sufficient adult who can take full responsibility for your financial and lifestyle choices. Remaining financially dependent (even for seemingly small things like a cellphone bill) will give a false sense of your budget and what you can afford. This will leave you unprepared when your financial support ends inevitably ends.

2. Have a Budget that Works for You

While no two financial situations are the same, an effective budget is always essential to balancing long-term goals and everyday expenses. By creating a breakdown of spending, income and debts, you’ll be able to better identify wasteful spending, adapt quickly to financial emergencies and begin to make headway on your future plans.

To learn more about how to create a budget that can work for you, check out our blog post MCU’s Tips for Creating an Effective Spending Plan.

3. Create a Strategy For Your Debt

If you’re still struggling with debt, your plans for the future will almost certainly be delayed.

Being debt-free by the time you’re 30 is ideal but for many, it can also be a tall order. Instead of setting unrealistic goals that leave you frustrated, start with putting a plan in place to move your finances in the right direction. Juggling student loans, credit card debt and the cost of living can be tough but creating a strategy that will help you effectively manage and pay down your debt is the first step to moving forward and reaching new personal and financial milestones.

To get started on strategically paying down your debt, check out our tips here.

4. Establish and Regularly Contribute to a Retirement Account

According to a recent study published by the Economic Policy Institute, nearly half of all Americans don’t have any saving at all set aside for a time when they will stop working. And while retirement may seem way off into the future, avoiding this predicament means starting to save now.

An easy way to get started is to participate in an employer sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b). These plans are especially helpful because your contribution is often matched by your employer up to a certain percentage. For example, they may offer to match up to 50 percent of the first five percent of your paycheck contributed to your retirement account or match you dollar-for-dollar up to six percent of your paycheck contributed.

5. Have an Emergency Fund

Life happens and having a financial safety net in place will help you to more easily withstand tough times. Before you start to make large purchases and expensive commitments or take vacations, you should have an emergency fund set aside from your other savings. A general rule of thumb is to put away 3 to 6 months' worth of living expenses for an emergency fund in case of job loss, illness or an unexpected bill.

While saving for a rainy day may mean a delay in achieving other financial goals, these savings will ensure that your financial situation will be secure in both good and difficult times.

6. Become Properly Insured

Buying insurance protects you from major financial setbacks in the event of the unexpected. While most young people know that this includes either buying into an employer-sponsored health insurance plan or purchasing one independently when they can no longer stay on their parents’ insurance plan (typically at age 26 in the United States), other policies should be considered as well. This includes dental insurance, disability insurance and even renter’s insurances.

Not purchasing insurance might save you some money each month but it will leave you vulnerable to crippling expenses down the road. For example, renter’s insurance may cost you $100 annually but without coverage, you could find yourself spending thousands of dollars to replace electronics, furniture and personal belongings in the event of a fire or burglary.

7. Start an Investment Portfolio

Investing your savings may seem like a complicated task sitting at the bottom of your to-do list but it’s important to diversify your money in order to receive potentially greater interest returns compared to that of a simple savings account. This is one of the most important keys to building long-term wealth.

If you’re one of the reported 40 percent of Millennials who feel like they don’t have enough money to start an investment portfolio, easy-to-use mobile apps mean you can begin investing small amounts of money without the use of a financial manager. Most notably, spare change investment apps, like Acorns, encourage users to invest spare change using a system they call "round-ups." These apps monitor your bank account and automatically invests the change from your daily purchases.

Other apps will make it easy to make small investments without having to pay commission fees, or keeping an account minimum.

8. Establish Good Credit

You may have made some financially mistakes in your past – you could have accidentally missed an occasional payment or even overstretched yourself financially at some point. However, improving your credit history and bringing your score up to snuff is an important milestone to reach before you hit 30. Doing this will help you to get approved for lower interest rates on loans, rent an apartment and even receive better pricing on insurance.

Thirty-five percent of your credit score is based on your payment history, which is good news for responsible credit card holders. Using your credit card on items you would normally pay for with cash and then paying your bill on time each month will help you create a strong payment history, building your credit score with the added benefit of not having to take on extra debt.

POSTED: Aug 14, 2018
Financially Planning for Your Child’s College Tuition and Expenses

When families talk about planning for college, money should always be part of the conversation. That’s because Americans are more burdened by student loan debt than ever before. In fact, the average student loan debt for students graduating in $39,400, which is a whopping six percent more than the previous year.

While many parents would like to help their children with the cost of college, even contributing a small amount can be an expensive goal – especially because some parents are still paying off their own student loans as their children matriculate.

Luckily, families have options that – individually and combined – can help them create a plan. And as the old saying goes, the earlier your begin to plan, the better.

Check out some of the ways you can help your child with their college expenses below!

1. Start a 529 Plan

Planning for college when your child isn’t even in kindergarten may not feel like a priority but it is actually an ideal time to start a 529 plan. This is a popular tax-advantaged investment account that many parents and guardians choose to open in order to save for a child’s college costs, including tuition; room and board; supplies and textbooks.

There are many different state-sponsored 529 accounts which give parents many contribution and investment options for those looking to choose the right plan, but these plans are all similar to Roth 401(k) or Roth IRA. Earnings in a 529 plan grow federal tax-free and will not be taxed when the money is withdrawn (as long as it is used for college).

It’s also important to note that there are two different kinds of 529 plans. Prepaid Tuition Plans let you pre-pay all or part of the costs of an in-state public college education (although they can be converted for use at private and out-of-state colleges). The Private College 529 Plan is a separate prepaid plan for private colleges.

2. Consider a Coverdell Education Savings Account

Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESA) are very similar to 529 plans, as they are tax-advantaged investment accounts that can be set up for any student under the age of 18 in order to pay for qualified education expenses, including college costs. And while earnings are also grow federal tax-free and will not be taxed when the money is withdrawn, ESAs come with some distinct differences.

For example, while Coverdell ESAs have much lower maximum contribution limits per child ($2,000), and they are only available to families below a specified income level. (in 2018, these limits are $220,000 a year for couples and $110,000 for singles), account holders have more control over their investments.

Additionally, the assets in an ESA must be withdrawn by the time the student reaches the age of 30. However, accounts for beneficiaries with special needs generally are not subject to the age restrictions on contributions and withdrawals.

3. Gift U.S. Treasury Bonds

To help their children prepare for the future, parents can give Series EE or I Bonds as gifts for birthdays, holidays and graduations. When it's time to redeem the bonds to pay for college, these bonds can be cashed in or rolled into a 529 plan.

Gifting bonds is especially helpful to students because of a special exemption in the tax code called the Savings Bond Education Tax Exclusion. Essentially, you won’t have to pay taxes for the bonds listed above. The catch? Parents will need to plan carefully. In order to qualify for this exemption, you must pay for your child’s college expenses during the same tax year in which the bonds are redeemed.

And while these bonds are gifts, it’s important to make sure that the bonds are purchased under your and/or your spouse's name – the beneficiary child cannot be listed as a co-owner unless you are using bonds for your own education, in which case the bonds must be purchased under your name.

4. Use the Equity in Your Home

You may not have been able to plan for your child’s education early on but you still have affordable options that may be able to help your child take on college expenses. Most notably, if you're a homeowner, there are some distinct benefits that come with using your home’s equity to help take on some or even all of your child’s tuition and other college expenses. For example, home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) often have lower rates than other types of loans. The interest paid on these loans is also tax deductible.

These loans are also easy to procure in a hurry – if you already have a HELOC, you can simply write a check – and come with fewer restrictions than most other types of loans.

5. Apply for a Parent PLUS Loan

The Parent PLUS Loan is a federal student loan available to the parents of dependent undergraduate students in order to help them pay for college or trade school expenses with the added advantage of a relatively low rates and flexible loan limits. For example, the Parent PLUS Loan offers a fixed 7.6 percent interest rate for the 2018-2019 school year.

To obtain a Parent PLUS Loan, parents should request a PLUS Loan at StudentLoans.gov or contact the financial aid office at the student’s college or university. Like most loans, loan applicants will need to prove that they have a strong credit history and will have to pay an origination fee.

Some parents may want to parents borrow Parent PLUS Loans to make sure their children don’t take on too much student loan debt. However, before parents take this step, it’s important to remember that it’s best if their child exhausts eligibility for Direct Loans first, since these student loans have lower interest rates and fees.

6. Help your children understand their financial aid

You may not be able to help your child financially at all (many parents can’t) but you can help them to make the best financial choices possible by keeping them knowledgeable and informed about the financial responsibilities they’ll be taking on. This includes helping them to understand any financial aid they receive from their college or university of choice.

For example, a financial aid award letter can bring a big sigh of relief to its recipient but it can also be tricky to understand. This is because the number next to the term “financial aid award” typically does not mean “free money”. Instead, many colleges will combine loans, grants and scholarships together in order to come up with the total amount offered in your award. Loans, of course, aren’t actually gifted money and will need to be repaid.

POSTED: Aug 09, 2018
Renting 101: The Real Cost of Moving into your New York City Apartment

It’s no secret that New Yorkers love to complain about paying rent– the average monthly cost for a one bedroom in New York City is $2,700! Despite the steep price, you may find a way to make your first apartment in the boroughs work within your budget. So, you’re ready to pack your things and move, right? Not quite yet. Before starting your search for your new apartment, potential renters will need to consider additional costs and fees that’ll come with the keys to their new home.

Check them out below!

1. Two Months’ Rent and a Security Deposit

As a security measure against potentially unreliable tenants, landlords and building management companies will require the first and the last month’s rent upfront. In addition to this initial cost, tenants will also be required to provide a security deposit (typically worth one month’s rent) upon move-in.

While you may be able to expect to get all or most of your security deposit back when you move out (barring damages), most renters are faced with providing their landlord or building management company a lump sum worth three month’s rent just to move in.

2. Broker’s Fee

Apartment shopping with a real estate broker may be out of the ordinary in most communities, but “no-fee” apartments (apartments that don’t require a broker’s fee) are especially tough to come by in New York City. As you begin your apartment search, chances are you’ll be looking at a lot of units represented by brokers who will get commission when you sign on the dotted line, which is almost always paid by you, the renter.

This fee isn’t cheap either. While the cost may vary, brokers’ fees in New York City are often about 15 percent of your annual rent. For example, a $2,000/month apartment will cost you $24,000 for the year. Fifteen percent of this annual cost is $3,600. And while it will take you a whole year to spend that much money in rent, the broker’s fee must be paid in a lump sum upfront.

3. Application and Credit Check Authorization Fees

You may have found the perfect apartment, but before you move in, you’ll need to fill out an application and authorize a formal credit check. Both of these actions come with a cost. Together, these expenses can cost approximately $150 per person for a rental building but can cost even more – up to $1,000 – in a condo or co-op building. Every person on the lease needs to pay these fees, so if you're applying with a roommate, this is one expense you won’t be able to split.

4. Utility Deposits

Your rent likely won’t cover all or even most of your utilities. If this is the case, you’ll also have to open new accounts to activate utilities like electricity, gas, water, cable and Wi-Fi. For each utility you open, you’ll likely be required to put down a deposit. This can cost up to $150 for each new account.

If all utilities are included to or tacked on as a blanket fee in your monthly rent, your landlord may still require a utility deposit. This is less common than other types of deposits and fees you might find in a lease, but if you live in a multi-unit building with a single meter — or if your landlord keeps bills for all utility services in his or her name — it may apply to you.

It's important to note that while utility deposits are an upfront cost you’ll need to consider, they may also be returned to you later on.

5. Renters Insurance

Expecting the unexpected is an important part of protecting yourself, your finances and your belongings. Most apartment complexes and landlords only have insurance that covers the damage to the actual dwelling. This means that all of your belongings – electronics, furniture, clothes, whatever—vulnerable. So, to protect your belongings in case of fire, theft, or damage, you need your own renter’s insurance policy.

Renter’s insurance doesn’t cost much – approximately $200 – but unlike some of the other fees and upfront expenses, you’ll need to pay this expense annually in order renew your policy.

6. Pet Fee

If you’re an animal lover, you’ll be happy to know that pet-friendly apartments aren’t uncommon. However, unless your pet is a service animal, living with your furry best friend will come at a price. Renters may be asked to pay both a refundable pet deposit and a nonrefundable pet fee. Together, these costs may amount to about $500. In addition to these upfront expenses, landlords and property managers may also charge recurring “pet rent”, which costs about $100 each month.

7. Stocking Essentials

You’ve paid all of the fees, deposits and upfront costs to get the keys to your apartment but the expenses don’t stop there. Purchasing and shipping furniture is an obvious next step but have you also thought about the small essentials you’ll need to make your apartment functional? If this is your first apartment or you’re unable to take these small items with you, you may be in for a big (and expensive) surprise. Cleaning supplies, toiletries, small appliances and kitchenware may not seem individually expensive but they add up quickly!

You may be able to source some of these goods from loved ones but it's recommended to create a budget before you begin your apartment search in order to keep all of your spending in check and on track.

8. Pro Tip: Create (And Pay Into) an Emergency Fund

By now it’s clear that moving costs a significant chunk of change. And while it’s important to understand these expenses, it’s equally important to avoid cleaning out your entire savings account in order to make your move possible. Your financial circumstances may change after your move and not having savings to rely on could put you in a predicament.

Our advice? Before you choose to move create and designate an emergency fund that will cover your new expenses (rent, utilities, groceries, transportation, etc.) for three-six months. This safety net will help to make sure that you’re financially secure in your new digs.

POSTED: Jul 13, 2018
MCU’s Five Things to Know: Buying a Used Car

Buying a used car is an opportunity to get behind the wheel of a great deal. However, if you’re not careful, you could be driving off with an expensive mistake. To make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck and a vehicle that will last you for as long as you need, check out our tips below!

1. Shop around. Falling in love with a car can make you want to sign on the dotted line pretty quickly but comparing similar makes and models can help ensure that's you're getting a fair deal. Taking this time will also help you really think about your purchase, opposed to buying with your emotions. To help ensure you’re not overpaying, you can use car buying website like TRUECar and Enterprise.

2. Research the vehicle's history. It may appear practically new but it’s important to look past the car’s paint job and into its history. This includes past owners, use, maintenance and if the car has been involved in any accidents or natural disasters. Running the vehicle identification number (VIN) will help confirm the car's history.

3. Check the warranty. In most cases, auto warranties transfer to the new owner after purchase. In other words, if you buy a car and sell it to a new owner, the warranty will still remain valid for the new owner until the end of the original warranty period. However, it’s important to contact the manufacturer to confirm that you can use the coverage.

4. Have your car inspected by a mechanic. A car may be advertised as being in good condition by a dealership or private owner but getting a second opinion is recommended so you can be sure to make your purchase with confidence. If you take the car to a garage for an inspection, the mechanic will put it on a lift and look for evidence of fluid leaks under the vehicle. Mobile inspectors can't provide this service.

5. Know your financing options! If you’re planning to finance your vehicle, choosing the right option could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars down the road. And while a dealership can sometimes work with you to offer a competitive interest rate, it’s important consider the other aspects of your loan and how they compare to options offered by your financial institution. These include the terms of the agreement, length of the loan and down payment.

When it comes time to make your purchase, MCU members have access to exceptionally competitive auto loans, including:

  • • Up to 125% financing available


  • • Low interest rates


  • • Flexible terms
POSTED: Jun 20, 2018
MCU Scam Roundup – Summer 2018

Identity theft is on the rise. According to the recently released 2018 Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy & Research, the number of identity fraud victims increased by eight percent last year, rising to 16.7 million U.S. consumers. And as identity thieves are becoming increasingly sophisticated, they’re combining old tricks with new technology and strategies to gain access to personal and financial information.

Knowledge is power. Learn more about the recent scams currently affecting consumers below:

1. Don’t play the odds on lottery winner notices.

Recent reports are warning consumers to keep an eye out for lottery and sweepstakes scams. Here’s how they works: potential victims receive a notice (through email, mail and phone calls) telling them that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes worth a considerable amount of money. However, warning signs will appear quickly. In order to claim their winnings, winners must wire money, provide their bank account (or credit card) information or send gift cards to cover supposed fees or taxes before they can collect their winnings.

The promise of a large financial payout can be an emotional experience for many individuals, which can inhibit them from thinking clearly and acting cautiously. This is why lottery and sweepstakes scams are one of the most common consumer frauds operating today. In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), these scams were the third-most common type of fraud reported to the agency last year.

To help protect your personal and financial information remember to follow these important steps:

  • • Remember that a legitimate contest or sweepstakes will never ask you to provide sensitive financial information.


  • • Never wire money to or share gift card numbers with anyone who asks. This is a sure sign of fraud.


  • • Report all suspicious contests, sweepstakes or giveaways to the FTC.

2. Don’t take a vacation from protecting your timeshare.

Timeshare owners looking to sell their properties this summer may be at risk of encountering scammers. Recent reports have shared that thieves pretending to be timeshare resale companies are scamming (typically older) victims. The fake company will promise the seller that they already have a promising potential buyer and that the sale will go through quickly and easily. Once the timeshare owner agrees, the company will charge them an upfront fee, which can amount to thousands of dollars. The owners pay the fee and the scammers disappear.

In some instances, similar schemes aren’t exactly scams but shoddy business practices. Timeshare resale companies may promise a quick sale for an expensive upfront fee and then fail to deliver entirely.

To protect yourself and your timeshare, we recommend following these important steps:

  • • Be sure to research any company you are looking to hire. Look for a legitimate website, social media presence and third-party consumer reviews. You can also check the Better Business Bureau to check a company’s legitimacy.


  • • Negotiate fee payments. Sellers would do best to negotiate that all fees and expenses be paid after their timeshare is sold. with a reseller that takes fees after the timeshare is sold. If fees must be paid in advance, always get a refund policy outlined in writing.


  • • Carefully review the contract and make sure it fulfills verbal promises made by the timeshare resale company.

3. There’s something phishy about cryptojacking…

As cryptocurrency continues to gain popularity, so do the efforts from identity thieves and scammers to steal it from innocent consumers. This is known as cryptojacking or cryptocurrency mining.

While these scams have been around for several years, they also continue to evolve. Most recently, cryptojackers have been reported to mimic phishing scams, as they now install sophisticated code onto websites, pop-ups or digital advertisement that will infect your computer with malware. Victims may notice changes to the way their device is operating, is it may slow down or crash.

To protect yourself from phishing and cryptojacking, consumers can protect themselves through the following steps:

  • • Always use and update antivirus software. Many of these programs can be set to update automatically.


  • • Don’t click on links without knowing where they lead. Oftentimes users can hover their mouse over a link to see the true URL before clicking on a link or hyperlink. This will help you to feel confident about the site you are about to visit.


  • • Consider closing sites or uninstalling apps that slow your device or drain your battery. This is a key indicator of a phishing or cryptojacking software.

4. Don’t open your door to work-from-home scams.

Earning money while working from home is an enticing offer but job-seekers should be skeptical. Scammers have been reported to post fake, but convincing-looking, job postings that promise high earnings (more than $5,000 every month) for following a multi-step work-from-home program. To get started, you’ll just need to buy into the program or entry-level package.

Don’t be so quick to take the bait though! Despite the promises, most people who paid for the online business program made little or no money. On the other hand, fake businesses have made off with millions of dollars.

Recognize the Signs of an online scam is important when it comes to avoiding fake job offers. jobseekers should steer clear of offers that:

  • • Guarantee that you can make a lot of money.

  • • Promise that you can make money quickly and easily.


  • • Ask applicants to purchase a software or buy into a program.


  • • Use high-pressure sales tactics, like saying you’ll miss out if you don’t buy in now.

POSTED: Jun 20, 2018
Budget-Friendly Activities for an NYC Staycation

Even when it’s not in the budget, it’s tough to say no to some summer fun. In fact, according to a 2017 LearnVest Money Habits and Confessions Survey, 74 percent of people admitted to incurring an average debt of $1,108 just to take a vacation!

Our advice? A few days in the sun are great but they aren’t worth derailing your financial goals and the stress that comes with it. Luckily for New Yorkers, great budget-friendly activities across the city can help create memories, build bonds and reduce stress without breaking the bank this summer.

Check them out below.

Take a daytrip to Governor’s Island.

Visit this small island off the tip of lower Manhattan to walk, bike, learn up on its Revolutionary War history, lounge in a hammock or enjoy a picnic.

Price:Free if you take the Manhattan ferry at 10am, 11am, or 11:30am on Saturdays and Sundays, or the 11am or 11:30am from Brooklyn’s Pier 6. Otherwise, it’s a $2 round-trip ferry fare.

Check out the Socrates Sculpture Park.

The Socrates Sculpture Park hosts art exhibits imaginative enough to make you feel like you’re walking through a dream. The park is open and free to the public year round and sits atop nearly five acres of landfill in Astoria, Queens, creating a great urban feel to the waterfront landscape while also allowing guests to enjoy nature. The park boasts more than 90 varieties of trees and plant life blanket the park, from birch trees to daffodils.

Price:Free!

Kayak at the Downtown Boathouse.

Kayaks are available for public use in the Hudson River from May through October. Participants are only allowed about 20 minutes of paddle time but then can enjoy all that Riverside Park has to offer afterwards!

Price:Free!

Take a midweek excursion to the Bronx Zoo.

While General Admission to the Bronx Zoo is typically $20.00 for an adult and $13.00 for a child, admission is free on Wednesdays! However, it’s important to note that special exhibits – like the Butterfly Garden, Congo Gorilla Forest and JungleWorld -- are not included.

Price:Free!

Enjoy movie night in a park.

From family friendly animated films to classic comedies and foreign flicks, outdoor movie nights pop up all across the city during the summer months. Check out this summer’s lineup to start planning a free movie night with friends and family.

Price:Free!

Ride the Staten Island Ferry.

Leaving every 15 or 30 minutes from lower Manhattan, the Staten Island Ferry is an easy and free way to get impressive views of the Manhattan skyline.

Price:Free!

POSTED: Jun 14, 2018
MCU’s Guide to Home-Buying Terms

The home-buying process can be confusing at times but the language and terminology doesn’t have to be. Check out some common real estate terms to know when getting ready to buy a home – it could save you time, frustration and even money down the road!

Buyer’s Agent: A real estate professional who is hired by and will advocate for a potential homebuyer. This means they will share their knowledge of the housing market, discuss the pros and cons of any home and assist with all legalities, negotiations and paperwork.

Listing Agent: A real estate professional representing a specific home and its owners by creating a strategic plan for how to market and sell the property. This agent will also properly prepare a home for showings and bring the right prospective buyer to the listing.

Fixed-Rate Mortgage: A mortgage that has a predetermined interest rate that will not change throughout the duration of the loan. Most commonly, there are 15-year and 30-year fixed-rate mortgages.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage: A mortgage that may has an interest rate that will change over time as interest rates fluctuate. Most adjustable-rate mortgages have an initial fixed-rate period, which can last between 3-10 years.

Mortgage Prequalification: An unofficial estimate made by a financial institution or lender regarding of how much mortgage a potential homebuyer can afford. This is done by reviewing an individual’s debt, income and assets but does not include an analysis of their credit report.

Mortgage Preapproval: An official letter provided by your financial institution or lender stating you are a suitable candidate for a mortgage (up to a certain amount). This requires a potential homebuyer to complete an official mortgage application, then supply the lender with the necessary documentation to a credit check and look into their financial background.

Home Inspection: A professional consultation that determines the structure, safety and system functionality (rather than its design or cosmetics) of a home. This inspection focused on evaluating a home’s major features including plumbing, electrical wiring, foundation, heating and appliances. A home inspection is not always mandatory before finalizing the purchase of a home but it is strongly recommended.

Home Appraisal: An objective assessment of a home’s market value, which will ensure that the amount of money requested by a borrower is appropriate. This assessment can be based off recent sales information for similar properties, the current condition of the property and its location.

Earnest Money: A monetary deposit made by the homebuyer to show that they are serious about going forward with purchasing a property. This amount is deducted from the sale price at closing.

Title Insurance: A form of insurance required by most lenders to make sure the home seller actually has the rights to the property title and that there are no liens on the home, such as unpaid taxes or utilities.

PMI / Private Mortgage Insurance: A type of mortgage insurance a homebuyer will be required to pay if they are providing a down payment of less than 20 percent on the total cost of a home. This will protect the lender if the homebuyers stops making payments on their mortgage.

Closing Costs: Taxes and fees that must be paid during the purchase (or closing) of a real estate property. These costs may amount to approximately five percent of the purchase price of the home and may include excise tax, loan-processing costs, attorney fees and an escrow fee.

Escrow Account: An account set up by the mortgage provider at the time of closing that is designed to help the new homeowner pay annual property taxes and insurance. This is done when the mortgage provider builds a small additional cost into the homeowner’s monthly payment in anticipation of the mentioned expenses. The mortgage provider then saves these funds on the behalf of the homebuyer until the expenses come due. Then, they will make the necessary payments on behalf of the homebuyer.

POSTED: Jun 13, 2018
MCU’s Identity Protection Travel Tips

Whether you’re planning to sightsee in a busy city or relax on a quiet beach this summer, protecting your personal and financial information is an important step to a stress-free and safe vacation.

Check out our easy tips below:

1. Avoid unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots

Free public Wi-Fi networks found in coffee shops, restaurants and airports can be convenient when you’re away from home but travelers should avoid them if possible. While these hotspots are handy, they should be used cautiously, especially when it comes to accessing personal information. Unsecured Wi-Fi networks don’t require passwords and can be easily hacked by thieves who can gather all of the sites you accessed and all of the personal information you entered while on the network.

Stick to a secure Wi-Fi hotspot that requires a password or use your phone’s network data.

2. Safeguard your wallet.

Some vacation hotspots are notorious for pickpockets that target tourists. To help protect your financial and personal information, leave your passport and any credit or debit cards you don’t plan to use in a hotel safe at all times if possible. To deter theft, travelers are encouraged to keep their wallet in a front pocket or to carry it in a cross body bag that can be securely closed. Avoid using backpacks and stay alert at all times.

If your wallet is lost or stolen while traveling, immediately place a fraud alert on your credit and notify card issuers. You’ll also need to report any stolen credit cards to your financial institution(s) and contact the nearest DMV branch to report your lost driver’s license. This will help to flag your license number to law enforcement officers if a criminal presents your driver’s license as their own if they get pulled over.

3. Make copies of your passport (but not your credit cards).

If your passport is lost or stolen on a trip, you could both find yourself stuck at the border and at risk of identity theft. To avoid this issue, it’s recommended to make two copies of your passport ID page. Give one copy to someone you trust such as a friend or family member and keep one copy in safe place, such as a hotel safe. Having a copy of your passport handy will make sure you have all of the information you’ll need to make a report and get a replacement.

It may seem natural to want to duplicate this process with your credit cards but instead, it’s recommended to write down your credit card numbers and details in a discrete manner. This will make it easy to make a report with your card provider if you have to, while adding an extra element of security.

4. Stop your mail while on vacation.

Your mail can include sensitive documents such as bank statements and medical bills. Because of this, mail theft is still common throughout the United States. To help protect yourself from this kind of identity theft while you’re away, you can request the United States Postal Service to temporarily stop delivering your mail through the USPS Hold Mail Service.

5. Let us know you’re traveling!

The priority of your financial institution is to protect your money and personal information. This is done by keeping an eye on card transactions in order to spot irregular activity and detect fraud.

While many travelers will contact their financial institution to let them know where they will be and that their card transactions may look abnormal, they are also providing helpful information that will help us to identify fraud quickly. For example, if you notify your credit union or bank that you will be in Florida for two weeks, your financial institution will know something is wrong if there is activity on your credit card in your local neighborhood or somewhere else during that timeframe.

Let us know your plans to travel! Give us a call at (212) 693-4900 or visit your local MCU Branch to speak with a member of our team. We recommend giving us at least two days’ worth of notice before you begin your trip.

POSTED: May 31, 2018
Finding Your Perfect Match: MCU’s Tips for Credit Card Shopping

Savvy consumers know that the right credit card can serve as an invaluable financial tool – it can help to consolidate bills, reduce debt and offer a layer of security when making purchases.

However, Not all credit cards are created equal and those in the market for a new card should always do their homework before signing on the dotted line. Gimmicks like shiny rewards programs and low introductory interest rates are designed to get your attention but once you’ve signed on the dotted line, a seemingly good deal may become an expensive mistake.

Check out the top five things to look for in a new credit card order to make sure it fits your budget and your lifestyle!

1. Annual Percentage Rate (APR).

While a credit card’s introductory interest rate may be as low as zero percent, you’ll need to know the APR that will follow once the introductory period expires (typically after six months). If you’re not careful, you could find yourself with a card (and a balance) carrying an APR as high as 30 percent, which could cost your hundreds or even thousands of dollars over time!

2. Minimum Payment.

You may not be able to pay your credit card balance off in full each month (that’s okay!) but you will have to make the minimum payment to avoid penalties and protect your credit score. Each credit card determines this payment differently. For example, it may be a small percentage of your total current balance or it could be calculated as a percentage of your total balance plus all of the interest on your balance. Cards may also come with a floor to their minimum payment, which means there will be a fixed dollar amount that the minimum payment won't fall below.

3. Annual Fee.

Some credit cards, especially those that come with perks and high-end rewards program, typically charge an annual fee to cardholders. This fee, which can cost as much as $500, is added to your balance due. Because of this, you’ll have to pay interest on it along with the rest of your bill, unless you pay it in full. Carefully consider this fee before signing up for the credit card. While the card’s benefits may be enticing, the annual cost may not fit your budget.

4. Hidden Charges

Like all financial products, your credit card should fit your lifestyle. Because of this, it’s important to know that some credit cards may come with hidden charges that will penalize your financial habits. Be sure to check for these details before signing up! For example, you may be faced with late fees, balance transfer fees, cash advance fees, foreign transactions fees or even inactivity fees.

5. Perks.

Rewards points and cash-back programs are becoming an increasingly popular way to appeal to credit card users. However, not all perks are created equal and some programs will have dramatic limitations. In some instances rewards points may only be used at certain shops or can only apply to airline tickets during certain times of the year. Similarly, cash-back program may only benefit certain cardholders, depending on your spending habits. For example, cash-back might only apply if you pay your balance in full each month or you’ll need to spend a minimum amount on your card throughout the year.

If perks and benefits are an appealing part of using your credit card, you’ll want to know the details about these kinds of programs ahead of time.

If this seems like a lot to take in, don’t forget that consumers can easily check for many of these details by checking the Schumer Box. The Schumer Box is a chart designed to outline credit card terms in a standardized and easy-to-read format. This chart can be, which can be easily found on a financial institution or lender’s website, will make it easy for consumers to understand rates, fees and details of any credit card product.

POSTED: May 24, 2018
MCU’s Seven-Step Auto-Buying Checklist

Whether you’re ready to upgrade to a new set of wheels or are shopping for your very first car, navigating the process of purchasing a new vehicle can be a confusing one. For many potential buyers, choosing the right car, financing options and even shopping method can leave them feeling overwhelmed.

Not sure where to start? Check out our MCU Auto-Buying Checklist below!

1. Determine your budget and get preapproved.

There’s no point in getting attached to a car that you can’t afford. Before you begin your search, start by reviewing your income, expenses and how a car may fit into your financial circumstances. As you begin to do your research, remember a car isn’t just an initial price tag or even a monthly payment – be sure to consider fees, taxes, the cost of fuel, insurance and repairs down the line.

If you’re planning to finance your car, getting preapproved has its advantages, including reinforcing your budget. While you may have already had an idea of how much you afford, getting preapproved for an auto loan will keep your budget in the black. It will also give you the best idea about what your financing options will be in the near future.

To get preapproved, you’ll likely need to provide employment and salary information as well as any other debts you may have.

2. Research, research, research!

Your car isn’t just a large financial purchase, it’s an investment in your lifestyle.

Extra storage or fuel efficiency? Four-wheel drive or city-friendly features? Taking time to do your homework to figure out which vehicle will meet your needs and compliment your budget will not save you time at the dealer but will also help to avoid disappointment down the road.

Auto buying apps and online resources such as TrueCar, Enterprise and Kelly Blue Book can help you to narrow your search, stay focused and feel confident about pricing when you visit dealerships.

3. Go for a test drive.

You’ve done your homework to narrow down your options and understand your financing options. Now, you’re ready to visit local dealerships and car-buying events to evaluate your top picks in person, make note of their details and take them for a spin.

Test driving vehicles may sound like a lot of fun (it can be!), but shopping in person can be an emotional experience too. As you test drive vehicles, it’s important to keep your excitement from taking over and to avoid distractions – i.e. cars that won’t work for your lifestyle or budget.

Remember, a car may look nice online but you won’t know if there’s a troublesome blind or uncomfortably low headroom until you’ve actually taken it for a test drive. Take careful inventory of the car’s features and how it handles. If something bothers you even slightly early on, it’ll certainly become an annoyance (or even a safety hazard) in the future.

4. Compare pricing and warranties to get the best deal.

Buyers may be surprised to learn that different dealerships will offer varied prices, complimentary service packages and warranties for the make and model you’re interested in purchasing. And while you may be tempted to jump at the opportunity to drive a car off the lot as soon as possible, you could be making an expensive (but common) mistake in your haste.

Before you even start shopping in person, digital car-buying tools like TrueCar can help you to easily compare prices that other customers paid for the same or similar vehicles in your area. You can use this information to get an idea of which dealerships you should work with, and also negotiate the best deal with confidence.

You can also get these details by working directly with dealerships in your area. Be sure to ask about the total sale price, including any additional accessories that may have already been installed on the car; maintenance plans; warranties and any upcoming dealership sales.

5. Decide how you’ll finance your vehicle

Now is the time to compare the financing and loan options offered by the dealership, compared to the auto loan preapproval you received from your credit union or other lender.

To do this, you’ll likely have to let the dealership run a credit report and assess your credit. And while a dealership can sometimes work with you to offer a competitive interest rate, it’s important consider the other aspects of your loan. These include the terms of the agreement, length of the loan and down payment.

This may sound like a lot of back-and-forth between yourself, the dealership and your lender. The good news is that many dealerships have relationships with credit unions, banks and private lenders, which means if you want to go the route of financing through one of these options, the dealership can work with you to secure the financing right onsite.

6. Close the deal.

Most buyers will finalize their purchases at a dealership. Once you've agreed on a deal, the salesperson will take you to the finance and insurance office. This is where you’ll sign the contract and make decisions to add any of the additional products discussed earlier, such as an extended warranty.

Be sure to review the agreement carefully and make sure the pricing matches the itemized expenses. There can be a lot of paperwork so it’s important to be assertive and to ask questions about any discrepancies.

Once you sign on the dotted line, the car is legally yours!

7. Receive your vehicle!

Whether your car is ready and waiting for you on the lot or is delivered from the manufacturer within a few days, receiving your vehicle isn’t just an exciting moment, it’s also an important step.

Be sure the gas tank is full and carefully look for any damage to the interior or exterior of the car. This is includes scratches, dings and scuffmarks. If everything looks to be in order, let the salesperson give you a tour of your new car and walk you through important features and safety devices.

POSTED: May 21, 2018
Four Things to Know: The Pitfalls of FHA Loans

If you’re a potential homebuyer struggling to save for a down payment or working to rebuild your credit score, a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loan may seem like the key to homeownership. These government-backed mortgages only require borrowers to have a 500 credit score and provide a 3.5 percent down payment in order to qualify. However, as the old saying goes, “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

FHA Loans do have some benefits and have helped many homebuyers achieve their goals but the product comes with pitfalls, drawbacks and limitations that could slow down the home-buying process, cost you more money and have you considering other options.

Check out our top four need-to-know facts below!

1. Insurance costs may surprise you.

It’s commonly known that homeowners who do not make a large enough initial down payment on a home will pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) alongside their mortgage until they have 20 percent equity in their home. After which, PMI can be cancelled.

However, FHA Loans are a bit different. While homebuyers are allowed to use this product to make a modest 3.5 percent down payment on a home, they’ll be signing up to pay mortgage insurance premiums for the entire duration of their loan (or until they refinance).

These premiums aren’t necessarily inexpensive either. Most recently, FHA mortgage insurance premiums can reportedly amount to nearly one percent of your loan balance (for a 30-year fixed-rate FHA loan).

And while many homebuyers anticipate a residual mortgage insurance premium for at least some time, those going forward with an FHA Loan will also have to pay an upfront premium, which is currently 1.75 percent of the loan amount and will be have to be paid at the time of closing.

When everything is said and done, these extra costs will make an FHA Loan more expensive than initially expected.

2. There are limitations to the kinds of property you buy can buy.

Looking to take on a fixer-upper or pay a bargain price with a foreclosed property? An FHA Loan probably won’t be an option. Before a homebuyer can be approved for an FHA Loan, a property will need to meet certain standards, including health and safety requirements.

This loan product will even be off the table to certain properties that are move-in ready. FHA Loans don’t apply to coop units. Condos may also be a challenge to get approved if there is a high number of empty units in your building or problems with your Home Owners Association are apparent.

3. Sellers may be hesitant to enter into a deal.

The current home-buying market is highly competitive and in many cases, buyers need to make an offer with their best foot forward or they will quickly lose out. That being said, home sellers do not always like to accept offers when the buyers are using an FHA Loan, as it suggests a lack of financial strength. They may also be wary of any extra requirements (from both themselves or the buyer) that could delay or even threaten the deal. To seal the deal in a hot market, buyers would do best to use another form of financing.

4. Your financing options will be limited.

FHA loans are only available to borrowers as a standard 15-year or 30-year fixed loan. And while this may work for most borrowers, for some, an interest-only mortgage or an adjustable rate loan may better suit their needs and long-term plan.

While these financing limitations may not fit your lifestyle, further stipulations may mean that these loans won’t work for your budget either. In response to the changing home prices, every year the FHA changes the maximum and minimum loan amounts that it will insure. In 2018, these parameters in high competition areas will be between $294,515 and $679,650. If you’re looking outside of this price range in either direction, an FHA Loan won’t work.

POSTED: Apr 09, 2018
A Guide to NYMCU Text Banking

When it comes to managing your MCU accounts, we like to say, “phone sweet phone!”

While many members are taking advantage of our NYMCU Mobile Banking App, don’t forget to enroll in NYMCU Text Banking too! Whether your Wi-Fi or 4G service is spotty, a smartphone isn’t your style, or you’re just looking for a quick way to check your accounts without taking time to log into our app, NYMCU Text Banking is a great way to manage your finances anytime, anywhere.

NYMCU Text Banking lets you access basic information and even regain access to your NYMCU Online and Mobile Banking Account if you’re locked out! Best of all, it’s easy and free to use*.

Check out some of the great functions and tasks you can complete just by texting commands to number 90703!

1. Unlock Your Online, Mobile Banking, and Touch Tone Teller Access.

Locked out of NYMCU Online and Mobile Banking? No need to call us! Just text “UNLOCK” and you’ll be right back to managing your accounts on our platforms.

2. Lock Your Online and Mobile Banking Access.

If you notice potentially suspicious activity on your accounts or have any reason to believe that your login credentials have been compromised, you can temporarily disable access to your NYMCU Online and Mobile Banking account by texting “LOCK”.

3. Check Your Balances.

Not sure about how much money is in your account? Quickly double-checking your balance before making a purchase or transferring funds can help protect you from overdrawing on your account. To check your account balances, text “BAL” to choose from a list of all of your accounts. You won’t even have to take the time to log into NYMCU Mobile Banking!

4. View Transaction History.

Members can track spending and even keep an eye out for potential fraud by regularly checking transaction history. View your transaction history without even sitting down at your laptop. Just text “HIST” to choose from a list of all of your accounts.

5. View Pending Transactions.

Don’t waste time wondering if a payment has been processed! Just text “PEND” to choose from a list of all of your accounts.

6. Check Branch Hours.

By texting “HOURS” you can check our branch hours and ensure that you have the time to stop by and complete your transactions.

7. Learn More NYMCU Text Banking Functions.

There are even more actions you can take through NYMCU Text Banking. Check them out by texting “HELP”.

Ready to give it a try? Enrolling in NYMCU Text Banking is easy through the NYMCU Online Banking platform!

*Cell phone carrier text messaging charges may apply.

POSTED: Apr 04, 2018
Scam Round-Up: Spring 2018

Identity theft is on the rise. According to the recently released 2018 Identity Fraud Study today by Javelin Strategy & Research, the number of identity fraud victims increased by eight percent last year, rising to 16.7 million U.S. consumers. And as identity thieves are becoming increasingly sophisticated, they’re combining old tricks with new technology and strategies to gain access to personal and financial information.

As we work hard to keep our members’ information safe, consumers can do their part by staying up-to-date on some of the scams and fraudulent activity that could put them at risk. To get started, check out our scam round-up below:

1. Be Smart about Student Loan Scams.

Americans are no strangers to student debt. If you’re one of the more than 40 million people in the United States who are currently working to pay off your student loans, you’ll need to keep an eye out for a growing trend in which scammers are posing to be loan repayment assistance agencies. These identity thieves will contact you via phone, email or letter claiming to be able to resolve any repayment issues you may be having. They may offer to eliminate a portion of your debt or create a more advantageous and affordable repayment plan. However, as soon as you provide money upfront on sensitive personal information, these scammers disappear.

While there are some loan assistance agencies that do help a lot consumers repay student loans (and other kinds of debt), you can protect yourself from scammers by following these simple steps:


  • • Never pay an upfront fee. A legitimate loan assistance program will never ask for an upfront payment or fee before beginning to work on your case.
  • • Research the company carefully. A Department of Education seal featured on a letter or email doesn’t mean a company is real. Scammers will often use official-looking names and logos to gain their victims’ trust. The only sure way to be sure you’re working with a legitimate company is to do your research.
  • • Don’t share your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. Along with cash, scammers could be after your personal information. This includes your FSA ID, which identity thieves can use to take control of your personal financial aid information on U.S. Department of Education websites.
  • .
2. Don’t Fall for an Employment Overpayment Scam.

Overpayment scams have been affecting consumers for years. But as technology changes, this old scam is certainly taking on new forms. Most versions of this scam involve a scammer sending victims a convincing-looking, but fake, check or money order for more than the asking price of something they are selling. The buyer will then ask you to send the remainder back at some point. So when the check you’ve received doesn’t clear, you’ll lose the money you sent back to the thief, as well as the object you shipped to them.

Today, these scams have evolved to include job offers and consumers who post their resumes on job websites could be at risk. If you’re being targeted, you’ll receive what is supposed to be a job offer to become a “financial representative” of an international company. The reason for the position? The hiring company has problems accepting money from U.S. customers and is looking for financial representatives to handle the payments. In exchange, you’ll receive a five-to-15 percent cut of the transaction you handle.

Searching for a job can be stressful but never take a position that requires you to make financial transactions. Falling for a scam like this may result in identity theft and money stolen from your account.

3. Don’t let Fraudsters “Getaway” with a Vacation Rental Scam.

Planning for a vacation? Travelers are being warned to shop carefully for rental properties. Scammers have taken to posting fake rental properties online, most notably through Airbnb. Once a victim books the rental, the scammers will email him or her stating that the property is no long available but will then send a link to a similar rental nearby.

Oftentimes, victims don’t realize that the link they’ve been sent is not actually on the official rental property website, but a similar looking duplicate. These sites may even be indistinguishable from the original, with the exception of the URL. Victims then unknowingly submit their personal and financial information to the fake website, putting them at risk of theft.

To make sure you don't get tricked, always stick to links you can access after typing in the website's legitimate address into your browser. And, if you're asked to send money outside of Airbnb's system, immediately cut off all contact. For your protection, this practice isn't allowed under the site's terms and conditions.

4. Combat Mobile Phone Port-Out Scams.

Switching your phone carrier and keeping your original phone number is called porting and may be an extremely convenient feature for mobile phone owners. However, it can also be the key for identity thieves to steal your personal and financial information. Fraudsters are reportedly exploiting this capability by impersonating consumers with the purpose of having their victims’ mobile phones ported to a different carrier.

So how does this put your information and financials at risk? A fraudster will often port a victim’s phone to a different carrier after they have already obtained their online banking username. Many financial institutions will allow their members or customers a one-time passcode, which is text messaged to their phone, to login to their online and mobile banking account if they’ve forgotten their password. By transferring a victim’s mobile phone, the thief can then receive the passcode and then easily gain access to their accounts.

Luckily, this new scheme is easy to avoid. Phone carrier are recommending that their customers place a “port validation password” on their accounts. This means that before your phone is switched to a new carrier is made, the existing carrier must receive your password, validating your identity.

POSTED: Apr 04, 2018
MCU’s Five Things to Know: Taking on Student Debt

No matter what they choose to study, most college students will graduate with one thing in common: student debt…and a lot of it! Today, more than 70 percent of college students will take out a student loan and the average borrower is expected to leave school owing more than $37,000.

If you or a loved one is entering college next year, there’s a lot to be excited about! However, if you haven’t quite figured out how to navigate student loans, we’re got you covered here. Check out some important must-knows below:


1. Your loans can be federal or private.

Not all loans are created equally and it’s important to understand all your federal and private student loan options before signing on the dotted line. One loan isn’t necessarily better than the other but federal and private student loans definitely come with distinct differences.

Federal loans, which are offered through the federal government, will generally offer more flexibility for borrowers compared to private student loans. For example, some federal student loans offer income-driven repayment plans, where the rate of repayment is based on the borrower’s salary after college. These types of loans will also often let borrowers adjust their repayment plan over time. These loans come in three forms:


  • • Direct Subsidized Loans
  • • Direct Unsubsidized Loans
  • • Direct PLUS Loans
  • .

On the other hand, private loans are offered through credit unions, banks and other financial institutions. These loans can be especially helpful in taking care of expenses that aren’t covered by federal student loans and other forms of financial aid. And because you are working with a private institution, your eligibility and interest rate will depend on your credit score.

Private student loans can come with many options and amenities too. They may offer different fixed and variable rate options, as well as helpful repayment plans—including options that allow you to start paying down your debt by making interest-only payments while you’re in school.

2. Don’t assume interest starts accumulating after graduation.

All student loans come with an interest rate but how it’s applied may differ. Your student loan may have a repayment grace period, which allows you to defer making payments while you’re still in school and even for a short time afterwards, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your loan isn’t accruing interest in the meantime. If it is, you’ll have a more significant debt to take on than you thought when it comes time to start making payments.

Understanding how your student loan’s interest works will help to eliminate surprises after graduation and help you to devise a plan to start tackling your interest as soon as possible (even before your loan comes due).

3. Read your financial aid “award” letter carefully.

A financial aid award letter can bring a big sigh of relief to its recipient but it can also be tricky to understand. This is because the number next to the term “financial aid award” typically does not mean “free money”. Instead, many colleges will combine loans, grants and scholarships together in order to come up with the total amount offered in your award. Loans, of course, aren’t actually gifted money and will need to be repaid.

4. Keeping a good credit score will give you the chance to refinance your student loans.

As the demand continues to grow (there are more than 44 million Americans with student debt!), more financial services institutions have begun offering individuals the ability to refinance their student loans. A refinanced loan will come with a new interest rate and repayment term. Maintaining a very good credit score will help you to get the best deal, which will not only help you save thousands of dollars in interest over time but will also leave more cash for your monthly budget.

5. Don’t default on your loans!

Defaulting on a student loan can come with serious consequences. Not only will it damage your credit score but over time, the federal government may seize your tax refund and apply it to your outstanding debt or even garnish your paycheck.

POSTED: Mar 29, 2018
MCU’s Guide to Shopping for Auto Insurance

Drivers know that insuring their vehicles is a responsibility that comes with getting on the road. However, it can also be an expensive bill to pay. In fact, the average driver in New York State pays more than $1,170 per year for their insurance. That’s nearly $100 per month! Luckily, drivers aren’t married to their insurance companies and shopping around for an insurance policy could lead you to better deals and lower monthly bills. Check out how to get started here!


1. Get quoted.

Most auto insurance policies are issued to drivers every six or 12 months. While getting a quote a month or two prior to when your policy is up for renewal, drivers are also recommended to shop for rate quotes if they move, purchase a new car, have seen a significant improvement to their credit score, or are looking to change the kind of coverage their insurance would offer.

It’s recommended to request quotes from at least three insurance providers but don’t let the policy price be the end all be all to your search. Not all policies are created equally and it’s important to make sure you understand what’s covered and how much protection you’d have from a new policy.

Be sure to do your homework on each of these new insurance providers and to note the details of the policies offered. This includes liability protection, collision coverage, bodily injury protection and the kind of coverage provided if you’re hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver.

2. Contact your current insurance provider.

Your insurance provider may be more willing to keep your business than you think. By bringing your new rate quotes to the attention of your provided, the company may offer to match or even beat your best offer.

Your circumstances may have also changed since your last policy with your current insurance provider. Be sure to let your insurance provider know if you now qualify for bundled policies (with renters insurance, home insurance, etc.) or if there are steps you can take, such as a driver safety course, that will improve your current rate. You could be missing out on discounts and financial opportunities.

3. Beware of penalties.

Auto insurance companies will typically give you the right to cancel your policy at any time. And as long as you give them the required noticed outlined in your contract, they will also typically refund your premium.

However, if you decide to switch insurance providers before your current policy has expired, you might be responsible for an early cancelation penalty. Be sure to understand if you’re responsible for any penalty fees before you go ahead and cancel your current policy. It’s important to weigh any potential fee against the savings you’ll experience with your new insurance policy. You may even find that it’s cheaper to stick with your current insurance provider.

4. Don’t leave a gap in your insurance.

A lapse in insurance coverage is a legal and financial liability, especially if you have an accident during that time. Because of this, it’s important not to cancel your insurance before you have the new policy in place. To do this, make sure you have something in writing from your new insurance provider before canceling your old policy.

5. Cancel your old insurance policy.

This may seem like a no-brainer but you’ll need to formally let your insurance provider know that you are canceling your coverage. Be sure to call or write to notify the company that you’re ending your policy and are going with someone else. It’s important to follow up to make sure you get written confirmation that you’ve canceled.

If you don’t formally cancel your premium, your old provider will continue to bill you. Even if you didn’t realize this bill wasn’t cancelled, not making payments will hurt your credit score.

6. Drive carefully!

Most insurance providers can drop you easily and quickly if you file a claim within 90 days. The same goes for if you receive a speeding ticket or earn points on your license.

POSTED: Mar 23, 2018
MCU’s 10-Step Home-Buying Checklist

Dreaming of the day you can stop renting? The path to homeownership can be a long and confusing one. The key to start early and plan ahead! Get started today check out our 10-step home-buying checklist below.


1. Save for a Down Payment

While a mortgage may be able to cover up to 97 percent of your new home’s price, you will still need to plan and save for a down payment. In addition, the more you can save, the better – having a larger down payment will not just reduce your monthly mortgage bill but will make a more competitive offer on a home. Putting down a 20 percent down payment will even help you to avoid paying the monthly expense of private mortgage insurance (PMI).

To start saving, potential homebuyers will need to sort out their finances and are encouraged to pay off any outstanding credit card debts, boost savings and look into special down payment assistance programs (these are especially helpful to first-time homebuyers).

2. Get Preapproved for a Mortgage

A mortgage preapproval from a lender is a formal estimation of how much you, as a potential homebuyer, are qualified to borrow. This preapproval, which will come in the form of a letter, can speed up the home-buying process by helping you to pinpoint your price range, secure a real estate agent, narrow down potential neighborhoods and motivate sellers.

3. Narrow your Search

Once you know approximately how much house you can afford, it’s time to look at the details of where to live and the type of home that can best fit your lifestyle and budget. To get the best idea of what you need, buyers can browse real estate websites, visit potential communities and take advantage of open house events.

By taking time to prioritize your needs and identify the specifics of how you’d like to live in your new home, you’ll be able to set realistic expectations and narrow down the neighborhoods you’d like to start your search.

4. Shop with a Real Estate Agent

You’ve done your homework and determined the types of homes and locations best suited for you and your budget. Now, it’s time to hire a real estate agent!

While it isn’t always necessary to hire a real estate agent, they can be a huge help. An agent will understand the real estate market and will save you time and frustration by working in your best interest to prescreen properties, ask tough questions about a home’s condition and help with negotiations. Your agent should also be someone who listens and has no problem answering any questions that are asked of him or her.

Despite working with a real estate agent, it is important to know that should you never feel pressured to rush into a decision.

5. Make an Offer

Making an official offer on a home is more complicated than calling up the seller and naming a price you’re willing to pay. This is also a time when having an agent will really come in handy. Because an offer is legally binding, it must be written down and include the details of what you’re willing to pay and the terms of the offer. These terms may include the target date for move in, your down payment, the type of deed that will be granted to the buyer and the method by which real estate taxes, rents, fuel, and utilities are to be adjusted or probated between the buyer and seller.

Most sellers respond within 24 hours to accept, reject or counter your offer. If a counteroffer is proposed, your agent will recommend a plan and then start negotiations with the listing agent. Once an offer is accepted, you and the seller will be in what’s known as mutual acceptance and will proceed to closing.

6. Complete a Home Inspection

Completing a home inspection should always be a contingency to any offer made on a home, as it is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to know the reality of your potential purpose.

A home may look move-in ready, but an inspector will cover features of the house such as electrical wiring, plumbing, roofing, insulation, as well as structural features of the home and may unveil issues that are not noticeable to the buyer’s eye. Once the inspection is completed, the home inspector will provide you with a report suggesting any improvements or repairs deemed necessary to bring the home up to current standards.

If potentially expensive flaws or damages are uncovered in the home, you’ll have the opportunity to renegotiate with the sellers for a better price or to back out of the deal.

7. Secure your mortgage

While being preapproved for a mortgage will speed up the process, you’ll still need to apply for your mortgage. Even if you have been preapproved, you as a borrower should always shop around for the best rates and terms.

To secure your mortgage, a lender will need to feel confident that know you’ll be able to repay the loan. At minimum you’ll need to show proof of steady income and provide last year’s W-2 form, approximately two months of recent pay stubs, and your tax returns from the past year. Depending on your income history and the size of the loan, you may also have to show additional paperwork including your earnings outside of your primary employments, debts, assets and recent monetary gifts.

8. Home Appraisal

A home appraisal is an important part of securing your mortgage because it assures you and your lender of the property’s value. Unlike a home inspection, a home appraisal does not solely focus on the structure and condition of the home. Instead, a home appraisal estimates the property's approximate value by considering the location of the home, its proximity to desirable schools, the size of the lot, the size and condition of the home itself and recent sales prices of comparable properties, among other factors. This is completed by MCU during the mortgage process.

9. Obtain Home Insurance

Because your lender holds a lien on your house until you've paid off your mortgage, they will want to ensure that their (and your) investment is protected. This means that in most cases, you'll need to prove to your lender that you've prepaid one year's worth of home insurance coverage on the home before you can close.

Among other things, a standard homeowner’s insurance policy will generally protect you against hazards like fire, hail, theft smoke damage, falling objects (like branches) and frozen plumbing. And while the requirements may vary depending on the lender, it’s recommended that you carry enough coverage to pay for the cost of rebuilding your home from the ground up in the event of a disaster.

10. Close on your home

You’re almost there!

A closing meeting is the final step to becoming a homeowner. During this meeting, you and the seller will gather your attorneys, real estate agents, closing agent, lender representative and a notary public to complete the necessary paperwork and final steps.

As the buyer, you’ll first do a final walkthrough of the home to ensure everything is in order. The seller will then sign certain documents transferring property ownership. You’ll review and sign all your loan documents, provide documentation on homeowner’s insurance and inspections and provide a certified check to cover the down payment, closing costs, prepaid interest, taxes and insurance. Depending on your loan terms, you may also be required to set up an escrow account to cover property taxes and homeowners insurance.

This is also when your lender will distribute the funds covering your home loan amount to the closing agent.

POSTED: Mar 09, 2018
MCU’s Tips for Strategically Paying Down Debt

Debt is nothing new to Americans. According to a 2017 study conducted by Nerd Wallet, the average household carrying credit card debt has a balance of $15,654 and households with any kind of debt owe $131,431 (including mortgages). While it may be common, the consequence of debt can be severe – causing stress, lowering credit scores and affecting careers.

If you’re feeling ready to successfully tackle your bills and eliminate debt, simply staying on top of monthly expenses may not be enough. Check out our tips below to get started today!


1. Know the difference between “good debt” and “bad debt”.

Not all debt is necessarily bad. Before you can make a plan to strategically eliminate your debt, you’ll need to understand what is considered good debt and what isn’t. A simple rule of thumb is to determine if the interest rates are low, whether your debt will increase your net worth or if this debt has future value. If the answer is no and you don’t have cash to pay for the debt quickly, it’s considered bad debt.

For example, a home mortgage is typically considered good debt. While it is a long-term loan (typically between 15-30 years), relatively low monthly payments will free up money for investments, living expenses and emergencies. In addition, a mortgage allows you to gain the asset of a home, which will likely increase in value, which will enhance your net worth and ideally cancel out the interest you’re paying over time.

Contrarily, bad debt carries high interest and the purchases made with it lose value quickly and can’t generate long-term income. For example, if you buy an expensive pair of jeans for $200 with your credit card, but can't pay the balance for several months or even years, you’ll only end up spending more money over time, potentially even after your purchase has been donated, damaged or misplaced.

As you begin to tackle your debt, avoid taking on any additional bad debt. As a rule of thumb, If you can't afford an expense and you don't need it, don't buy it.

2. Prioritize your debts based on interest rates.

Prioritizing debt repayment doesn’t mean paying off one bill at a time and ignoring the rest. It refers to taking on all of your bills and debts at once but identifying which debts should be paid off the fastest in order to save you the most money down the road.

Debts that have higher interest rates cost more money, every dollar of debt owed costs more each month and will carry over if it goes unpaid. By focusing on paying these debts first, you’ll save the most money because the interest that's accruing on your accounts will decrease.

By this reasoning, high-interest revolving debt, such store cards and reward credit cards, should ideally be paid off in full within one payment cycle. Lower interest credit cards should usually be prioritized next. Once these debts are paid down, you can focus on fully eliminating long-term and low interest loans such as student loans, auto loans and mortgages.

3. Carefully read loan terms.

As the old saying goes, the devil is in the details. Always take time to carefully read through and understand the details of the debts you are taking on.

Carefully read through the terms of the introductory rates you’re receiving on new credit cards. This will help you create a plan for paying off these debts before a higher interest rate is applied. Otherwise, you can have a balance of hundreds or thousands of dollars that’s suddenly getting hit with a high interest rate that can be over twenty percent.

I addition to rate changes, it’s important to understand what will happen if you make extra payments or larger payments on certain loans. This is because in some unusual cases, a lender will actually penalize you for making early repayments.

You also need to be aware of how making extra payments may affect your loan. In most instances, your lender won’t adjust the cost of your monthly payments but they will reduce the length of your loan. This is good news because a shorter loan period means you’ll pay less interest.

4. Consider consolidation.

Choosing to consolidate your debt won’t just make managing a pay schedule easier by combining multiple bills into a single low-interest monthly payment – it can save you a significant amount of money, as you’ll eliminate the high interest rates.

One of the most popular ways to do this is to transfer the balances of several higher-rate credit cards to a card with lower fees and (ideally) a zero percent APR introductory rate and a lower, more favorable rate after that. Borrowers can take advantage of this grace period to take advantage of paying down the principle of their debt.

To learn more about how debt consolidation, check out our blog post here.

5. Use moderation.

Allocating extra funds towards debt elimination is a good idea, but don’t forget your other goals. While the idea of being debt free may be an exciting one, a common mistake people often make is that they solely prioritize debt elimination before giving attention to other important financial priorities, such as creating a nest egg.

In creating a moderate and balanced financial plan, both debt elimination, savings and even investing can occur at the same time. For example, don’t let the prospect of paying your auto loan off sooner prevent you from allocating funds to a retirement account.

POSTED: Mar 06, 2018
MCU’s Money-Smart Travel Hacks

Feeling like you need an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life? Taking a vacation is a great way to relax and recharge. The best part? It doesn’t have to blow your budget. Whether you’re planning a weekend away or a trip around the world, check out these tips that will help you manage your money, spend smart and feel stress-free while you travel!

1. Contact your financial institution

The priority of your financial institution is to protect your money and personal information. This is done by keeping an eye on card transactions in order to spot irregular activity and detect fraud. If you’re traveling, your card activity is almost certainly going to look abnormal and may result in a hold being placed on your card or account for security purposes. This is especially true if you’re traveling abroad or a significant distance from your home.

While this could surely put a hitch in your vacation, it’s also very easy to avoid. Just let us know your plans to travel! Give us a call at (212) 693-4900 or visit your local MCU Branch to speak with a member of our team. We recommend giving us at least two days notice before you begin your trip.

2. Book flights in advance (but not too far in advance!)

There are many theories about how travelers can get the best deal on airline tickets but according to CheapAir.com, the best time to find the most inexpensive deals on domestic flights is between three weeks and three months before departure. Travelers are encouraged to book international flights at least two months in advance in order to get the lowest ticket prices possible.

3. Pre-order attraction tickets and excursions

Looking to take a museum tour or see a show? Preordering your tickets can help you stay on a predetermined budget made before you start your travels and minimize the amount of spontaneous credit and debit card transactions made while you’re away.

The more you plan ahead of time, the less there is to think about on your trip – financially and otherwise!

4. Live like a local

Giving up a chain hotel for a rental property in a less commercial or tourist-oriented area of a city may be outside of your comfort zone but will mean big savings. Travelers will also have an easier time sticking to a tighter budget by cooking their own meals or dining at restaurants outside of tourist districts or city centers. You may even gain a new perspective on your host city or country in the process!

5. Consider the currency

If you’re looking to travel abroad, the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the native currency of the country you plan to visit could be the difference between coming in under budget or breaking the bank. For example, traveling to Cancun, Mexico may cost roughly the same as a flight to London, England but your dollar will stretch much further compared to the peso than it will compared to the pound.

It’s also important to note that when charging purchases abroad, you may have the option of paying in U.S. dollars, instead of local currency. This is often referred to as “dynamic currency conversion.” While it may be easier to keep track of costs when choosing to pay in U.S. currency, travelers will usually receive a better rate and save money by opting to initially pay with local currency.

If you are traveling to an international location and plan to use mostly cash, you can save yourself stress, aggravation and an extra expense by ordering foreign currency ahead of time. You may otherwise be at the mercy of a pricy currency exchange services.

6. Purchase travel insurance

When it comes to traveling, expect the unexpected. For a relatively small cost, travel insurance will cover the expenses you could potentially incur while you’re away. Travel insurance will help absorb the cost if you lose anything, need to visit a hospital, check out of a hotel early because of weather or need to change your flights.

7. Plan ahead with an MCU Vacation Club Account

The best way to have a financially stress-free vacation? Plan ahead. For MCU members, opening an MCU Vacation Club Account means putting away a little bit each month in preparation for a getaway is easy and convenient. Check out the benefits below:

  • • Open your MCU Vacation Club Account with as little as a $5 deposit.

  • • Add to the account like any other savings account, through direct deposit or automatic payroll deduction, and watch your account balance grow.

  • • During the first week of May, the money you have accumulated in your Vacation Club Account will automatically be deposited into your FasTrack Checking Account or Share Account for you to access.

  • • Save for an even bigger vacation in the future by rolling over your funds right back into your Vacation Club Account.

POSTED: Mar 06, 2018
Five Things to Know: Spring Auto Maintenance Tips

There are a lot of things to love about our cars but pricy auto repairs definitely isn’t one of them. Luckily, by periodically taking care of your vehicle with inexpensive maintenance tasks, you’ll not only keep your car running efficiently and safely, but will also prevent expensive repairs down the road. As spring approaches, now is the time to get your car ready for the warmer temperatures, spring showers and notorious potholes plaguing the streets.

Check out these easy vehicle maintenance checks that can help keep your car running smoothly, your passengers safe and your wallet happy.

1. Check tire pressure

Due to cold temperatures, your car’s tires will likely have lost pressure over the winter, leaving them partially deflated. Driving with low tire pressure for an extended period of time can reduce your car’s efficiency (costing you more in gas) and even weaken your tires, which could result in tire blowouts. This means that checking the pressure won’t just save you money down the road, but is also an important safety precaution.

If you don't feel comfortable checking your car's tire pressures and filling your tires by yourself, take it to an auto parts store or gas station, which will usually perform the check at little to no cost.

2. Maintain visibility

More than 23 percent of car accidents in the United States are caused by the combination of hazardous weather and poor visibility. This means keeping your windshield wiper blades up to snuff is important for any car owner. Snow and ice throughout the winter months can crack, wear and damage your wiper blades, leaving them less effective when you need them most. This upgrade is easy and inexpensive but can go a long way in keeping you safe on the road.

In addition, always be mindful of any chips (even small ones) in your windshield. If you spot one, have it repaired as soon as possible. If left unattended, sudden temperature changes (such as defrosting a freezing windshield) can cause these chips to become large cracks, which means you’ll have to make the expensive repair of replacing your entire windshield.

3. Check alignment and suspension

With potholes, rocks, sand and salt, the winter roads can be tough on your vehicle’s alignment or damage its suspension. Over time, parts such as suspension springs can become worn and slack, leading to a shift in the wheel alignment, which can affect tire performance and safety. In this case, prevention is more effective than repairs so regular service checks are recommended to car owners looking to stay ahead of the damage.

4. Change the oil

If you let basic auto maintenance like changing your oil go by the wayside this winter, you’re definitely not alone. According to a recent Car Care Report, nearly 22 percent of cars on the road have dirty oil. Proactively changing a vehicles’ oil and filter won’t just help your engine continue to work at its best it’s also an inexpensive and highly effective way to prevent thousands of dollars in engine damage. We think that’s definitely worth a trip to your local automotive shop.

5. Check fluid levels

In addition to oil, drivers need to pay attention to transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, air conditioning coolant, radiator fluid and washer fluid levels. Experts recommend checking these fluids every few months. Each of these fluids serve different functions but work together to keep you engine running smoothly and your transportation safe.

POSTED: Mar 02, 2018
Energy Saving Projects to Tackle this Spring

For homeowners, the coming spring weather means it is time to take on the home improvement projects that will both freshen up your home and prepare it for the summer months. While you may be busy cleaning up your yard, patching your roof or cleaning your windows, you may be missing easy and inexpensive updates and projects that won’t just save you money down the road, but will also benefit the environment. Check them out here!

1. Replace your light bulbs with LED Lights.

It may not be the most obvious spring project to take on but it’s certainly an easy one to accomplish! A small upfront investment in LED energy efficient light bulbs can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in energy costs over time. And they’re not good for environment and your wallet – they’re long-lasting and can work for as long as 10 years without having to be replaced!

2. Install a programmable thermostat.

As temperatures rise in the summer months, your energy bill is sure to see a spike. By investing in a programmable thermostat, you can easily save money and help the environment by having the temperature in your home automatically adjusted to your work and sleep habits. According to the U. S Department of Energy, lowering the thermostat 10-15 degrees while at work, or away from your home can make a significant impact on your energy bill – reducing it by nearly 10 percent!

Unlike simply turning your air conditioning off while you’re out of your home, a programmable thermostat can also greatly improve your general comfort levels as it can be set up to begin cooling your home off before you are expected to return home or wake up.

3. Put all of your electronics on power strips.

Even when they’re switched off, TVs, Laptops, Lamps, kitchen appliances, cable boxes and WIFI routers will still pull electricity. By putting these gadgets and appliances on power strips or surge protectors, you can easily shut them off completely at night or when they’re not in use in order to conserve energy, save money and help the environment!

4. Close ducts and seal cracks.

Air leakage through air ducts and cracks can reduce heating and cooling efficiency in your home by 20-30 percent. Taking time to seal ductwork and caulk cracks in your home is an easy do-it-yourself project that anyone can take on with just a little bit of patience. For just a small cost and a few hours of work, you can make your home more efficient and save money on cooling costs during the hot summer months that will soon follow.

5. Replace old windows

While replacing your windows may be a more expensive project to take, this upgrade will not only make a substantial difference in the efficiency of your home, but will also increase its value. By adding new double-paned windows can reduce heating costs by 15 percent and add savings of as much as $2000 over the life of the window.

POSTED: Feb 20, 2018
Selling your Car when you have an Auto Loan

According to the Federal Reserve of New York, a record 107 million Americans had an auto loan in 2017. That's nearly 43 percent of the entire adult population in the US!

If you have a current auto loan on a car you’re looking to sell or trade in, you’ll need to take a few extra considerations into account before starting the process. This is because when you have an auto loan, the lender is technically a partial owner of the vehicle. Their name may be listed on the car title and they could even hold the title. This is to ensure you can’t sell your car and transfer the title without the lender receiving the current balance of the loan.

1. Talk to your Lender

You may not know where to start when it comes to selling your car but consulting with your lender is a great way to get started and gain important insights on the steps you’ll have to take. It’s important to remember that no two lenders are the same and they’ll each have different requirements and processes when it comes to helping car owners through the selling process. Your lender might even have a local office where you and the buyer can meet, which would make the process easier.

2. Determine your Car’s True Value

It’s important to remember that it’s illegal for a car to transfer owners if there are still liens on it. This means that in order for your lender to sign off on the title of your vehicle, your auto loan must be paid off completely first. This aspect of selling your car highlights the importance of knowing the value of your car before selling it. In some situations, the sale price won’t cover the remainder of the loan.

By using resources like Kelley Blue Book or Cars.com, car owners will be able to determine both the sale and trade-in value of their vehicle. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll get a better deal from a sale compared to a trade-in.

Once you know your vehicle’s standard value, you’ll then have to subtract the payoff amount, or the dollar amount outstanding on your loan, from the value of the vehicle. Knowing your car’s value, compared to the amount you owe on it, will help you decide if selling your car is right for you.

3. If your Car has Positive Equity…

If your car has positive equity, meaning it is worth more than the loan you have on your vehicle, the process of selling your car can be quite simple. The buyer will either pay the total amount to the lender and the lender will then pay the difference to you, or the buyer will pay your remaining loan balance to the lender and then make a separate payment to you.

For example, if you still owe $7,000 on your auto loan and a private buyer pays $15,000 for your car, you will receive $8,000 for the sale.

4. If your Auto Loan is more than your Car is Worth…

If you’re underwater on your auto loan, meaning you owe more on your auto loan than your vehicle is worth, selling your car could become more complicated. This is because you’ll have to somehow give the lender the difference between the sale price and what you owe. For example, if you still owe $8,000 on your auto loan and a private buyer is only paying $6,000 for your car, you would have to pay the lender $2,000.

To do this, you can pay cash or you might have to take out another loan. The private buyer will pay the sale amount to the lender and then you will have to pay the difference.

Finally, you and a representative of the lender will sign and hand off the title to the buyer.

5. If you’re Trading in your Vehicle

If you’re trading in your vehicle, the auto dealership can be a big help in handling all of the paperwork surrounding the purchase of your car and paying off the remainder of your auto loan. This is because unlike privately selling your car, you can trade your vehicle in before all of the loans have been officially cleared.

If you're trading in a car that’s worth more than the balance on your auto loan, the dealer will give you a credit for the difference to use toward the purchase of your next car.

However, if you’re underwater on your auto loan, the dealer could add the negative equity amount into the loan on your new car. This means you’ll actually be taking out a bigger loan for the next car. In situations like these, you may end up paying more than your new car is actually worth or worse, biting off more than you can chew financially.

Sellers should always be wary of trade-ins, as a dealership will likely not give you the same amount of money you may get from a private sale. If they do give you the retail market value of your car, some of that cost could be tacked onto the vehicle you are buying or leasing from the dealership.

Finally, as a seller, it is your responsibility to follow up with the dealership to ensure that they’ve worked with your lender to pay off the debt on the car.

POSTED: Feb 15, 2018
MCU’s Tips for Planning for Retirement as a Millennial

Planning for retirement is a challenge. In fact, according to a recent study published by the Economic Policy Institute, nearly half of all Americans don’t have any saving at all set aside for a time when they will stop working. For Millennials, or individuals born between 1981 and 1999, the challenge to save can be amplified by student loan debt, economic downturns that have at times limited career opportunities, and the looming prospect of reduced social security benefits in the future.

While it may feel like your career is only beginning when you’re in your 20s and 30s, financial planning is the key to successfully retiring one day. Check out our tips on how to get started below!

1. Create a Budget

Like many young people, you may be feeling like you’re already stretching your paychecks just to cover daily and monthly expenses. But if you’re serious about being financially ready for retirement one day, you won’t just have to create a plan that will help you save, but will also help you to pay down any debt you may have from school or otherwise.

No matter what your financial goals are, your budget will be the key to your success by providing you with a blueprint that will help you stay vigilant of your finances. By creating a breakdown of spending, income and debts, you’ll be able to better identify wasteful spending, adapt quickly to financial emergencies and begin to make headway on your future plans.

To learn more about how to create a budget that can work for you, check out our blog post MCU’s Tips for Creating an Effective Spending Plan.

2. Take Advantage of Employer Match Plans

If you belong to an employer sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b), your employer may offer to match up to a certain percentage of your paycheck that is contributed into that account. For example, they may offer to match up to 50 percent of the first five percent of your paycheck contributed to your retirement account or match you dollar-for-dollar up to six percent of your paycheck contributed.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, nearly 30 percent of employees under the age of 30 will miss out on using or maximizing their employer match program.

To help prepare for retirement, It’s important to contribute as much as you can, but if you’re maximizing your employer’s match program, you’ll be passing up on free money. For example, you may choose to contribute four percent of your paycheck to your 401(k) but your employer might match you dollar for dollar up to six percent of your paycheck. This means you’d be missing out on hundreds of dollars each year that could be contributed to your retirement account by your employer.

3. Put your Change to Work with Investing Apps

It may feel like there are many factors working against Millennials as they financially plan for retirement but this generation’s native understand and comfort with technology is one big advantage. Once you’ve got a handle on your budget and employer retirement programs, Investing your money is a great next step building long-term wealth.

While a reported 40 percent of Millennials feel like they don’t have enough money to look towards investing, easy-to-use mobile apps mean you can begin investing small amounts of money without the use of a financial manager. Most notably, spare change investment apps, like Acorns, encourages users to invest spare change using a system they call "round-ups." These apps monitor your bank account and automatically invests the change from your daily purchases.

Other apps will make it easy to make small investments without having to pay commission fees, or keeping an account minimum.

4. Consider a Side Gig

Picking up a side gig is a great way to earn extra cash that can go straight into savings or help you take on financial responsibilities you’ll need to manage before you can plan ahead. Unlike a second job, a gig typically allows an individual to pick their own hours and work as little or as much as they want. This could include dog walking, house sitting or even joining a ride-sharing program. It’s popular too. According to Bankrate, 44 million Americans have taken on a gig to help get ahead. More than 35 percent of those surveyed reported earning more than an additional $500 a month!

POSTED: Feb 09, 2018
Four Reasons to Refinance your Mortgage in 2018

For many homeowners, refinancing your mortgage could give you the benefits and resources to make home sweet home a little bit sweeter. Check out these reasons to refinance your mortgage in 2018!

1. Switch to a Fixed-Rate Mortgage.

Rates are beginning to creep up in 2018 and homeowners with Adjusted Rate Mortgages (ARM) could end up taking on a more expensive monthly payment. By refinancing from an ARM to a Fixed Rate Mortgage (FRM), you could save yourself thousands of dollars throughout the course of your mortgage.

2. Reach Financial Goals

A cash-out refinance is a new mortgage that increases from the amount you currently owe. The increase goes to you as cash, which you can use on home improvements, debt consolidation or other financial needs. Cash out refinancing will only work for homeowners who have available equity in their homes.

3. Drop your Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

According to leading real estate marketplace Zillow, New York home values increased by 10.9% in 2017 and are predicted to rise another 3.6% over the next year! This is great news for homeowners looking to refinance! If the value of your home has significantly increased and/or you paid down your mortgage enough to ditch the PMI, a refinance might save you a lot of money via both a lower interest rate and from the absence of said PMI.


4. Shorten your Mortgage Term

Homeowners who want to aggressively pay down their mortgages could benefit by refinancing their 30-year mortgage into a shorter-term loan. In fact, a 15-year mortgage typically saves about 50% in interest over the life of the loan. That means you’ll not only be able to pay your mortgage off a lot faster without potentially breaking the bank, but will also save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in interest you would have otherwise paid throughout a 30-year mortgage.

POSTED: Jan 31, 2018
The Pitfalls of Buying a Foreclosed Home

At first glance, buying a foreclosed home may seem like an appealing option to homebuyers. These properties can give you an opportunity to move into a neighborhood that may otherwise be too expensive and give you a chance to take on remodeling projects that suit your style. However, homebuyers (especially first-time homebuyers) should think twice and proceed with extreme caution. These homes are likely to come with pitfalls and complications that will quickly turn a seemingly good deal into an expensive mistake.

Before you get into the murky business of shopping for a foreclosed home, check out these important considerations.

1. Neglect can lead to expensive repairs.

You might be ready to renovate a few bathrooms; install new floors and paint, but it’s important to remember that a home became foreclosed upon because its owners were in financial distress for an extended amount of time. This means that long-term neglect and the absence of even basic maintenance could result in a home needing significant repairs just to make it habitable.

While foreclosed homes will be in varying states of neglect, damages such as mold, broken pipes, vermin, faulty wiring, water damage and broken appliances are common and can run up an expensive bill.

Most importantly, potential buyers may not even have a chance to understand the extent of a home’s damage before they have to make a bid. This means you could be getting yourself into a money pit without even knowing.

2. The previous homeowners could create complications.

In addition to wear and neglect, it’s not uncommon for disgruntled homeowners facing eviction due to a foreclosure to intentionally devalue the home. Commonly, this includes breaking windows, pouring paint on the floors and breaking the thermostat. They may even remove fixtures such as countertops, vanities and appliances with the intention of making the process as unpleasant and expensive as possible for the homebuyer.

Current inhabitants can also become problematic if they refuse to leave the property. Legal eviction takes time and money and can delay your home buying plans.

3. Beware of inheriting unpaid bills.

Between a down payment; escrow; closing costs and fees, buying a home is an expensive milestone. However, buying a foreclosed home could mean you’ll also become responsible for any debt connected to the home as well. You could be on the hook for unpaid tax obligations, construction loans, unpaid utilities or liens on the property. It’s important to take the time to understand any financial obligations associated with the home and carefully consider what it may mean for you.


4. The buying and financing process is often frustrating.

Buying a foreclosed property can be a long and frustrating process with extra paperwork and slow response times. For example, if you’re buying a short sale you’ll be waiting on all parties – including the current owners, the primary lender, and any lienholders – to approve your offer. Occasionally, this process can take months.

Real Estate Owned (REO) properties, which are in the final stage of foreclosure, can be even more tedious to purchase, especially when it comes to financing. Because conventional mortgages are limited by the appraised value of the property, you’ll often need a lender approval letter saying that you qualify for the amount of the offer you are making. In other scenarios, you might need to use a use a loan product other than a mortgage, as some lenders and financial institutions do not offer mortgages for distressed properties.

These longer-than-normal processing times can also result in delays in the acceptance of your offer, which can impact financing. Most lenders have time limits on rate approvals. Waiting for a response could result in less favorable mortgage or loan terms if your approval expires and rates increase.

5. The competition is high.

From first-time homebuyers to seasoned investors, foreclosed properties attract a lot of interest because of their potential value.

Homes in the auction stage of foreclosure are particularly attractive to investors because they present the best opportunity to acquire property at a significant discount. However, those who aren’t accustomed with investigating foreclosed homes and are unsure of local property values might find it difficult to compete. Even worse, they may let their emotions get the better of them and end up overpaying for an undesirable home..

POSTED: Jan 30, 2018
MCU’s Five Things to Know: Must-Have Financial Conversations Before Getting Married

Money can’t buy happiness but being on the same page about finances with your partner can make for a happy relationship. If you’re looking to tie the knot soon, having important conversations about money can help start your marriage off on the right foot and remain successful for years to come.

Not sure where to start? Check out the five financial topics we think are most important for couples to discuss!

1. Budgeting

There’s no way around it – if you’re going to be spending your life with somebody, you should have an understanding of how you’ll be spending your money together too. It’s important to know how your partner prioritizes saving money in relation to traveling, expensive goods, entertainment, etc. And while knowing these preferences is important, it’s crucial that you’re both honest about you each stick to a budget. This will help create an understanding about how best to manage your money together.

You may not agree on everything but a conversation can help you avoid surprises and help to create a spending plan. This is important because without a budget and spending plan, you may find yourselves coming up short each month – or, even worse, find yourself with a mountain of debt.

If you need help creating a budget, check out our tips for creating an effective spending plan.

2. Sharing Fund and Accounts

While marriage means living together, some people don’t believe in keeping all or even some of their money together. A conversation about holding joint or personal accounts will help a couple to talk about the financial benefits of marriage and if they are comfortable sharing all of their new responsibilities and expenses. This topic can get especially tricky if one party sees sharing money as a marker of commitment more than the other. Nevertheless, the conversation it is beneficial to in set expectations for the future.

This conversation may also lead to the topic of a prenuptial agreement and how both parties feel about keeping their money together or separate in all potential scenarios. While discussing prenuptial agreements can feel uncomfortable on the eve of a marriage, more and more people are considering these contracts to be like insurance policies in the event that their relationship dissolves later on.

3. Financial Obligations

As mentioned above, couples should communicate their expenses and responsibilities before getting married. Oftentimes, this conversation will include any financial obligations or debts that each person is currently responsible for. Putting these expenses on the table will help couples set an effective budget and create trust between both parties, as it eliminates surprises that may arise once you’re married.


4. Retirement

Marriage is for the long haul so talking about the far-off future before walking down the aisle isn’t farfetched. Retirement savings and planning, as well as life insurance policies, will eventually be an important factor in the household income. To prepare for that time, talk about whether you participate in a retirement plan at work or contribute to an IRA. You could also make a plan to change the beneficiary information on any currently existing insurance policies.

5. Back-Up Plans

There’s a reason why many couples include the phrase “for richer or poorer” in their vows – life is full of financial surprises. When money gets tight, fear or frustration can cause couples to fight. The best way to weather these rough patches is to plan ahead by creating and growing an emergency fund. Important questions to discuss include what the ideal percentage of income should be funneled into the savings account and what the rules are for withdrawing funds from it.

POSTED: Jan 18, 2018
Five Things to Know: Protecting Yourself Against Card Skimming

Using your debit or credit card at an ATM or gas pump may seem harmless enough but consumers need to beware of the increasing popularity of card skimming scams on devices just like these. A card skimming scam occurs when an identity thief or criminal attaches a small, discrete device to a card reader in order to collect personal and financial information from your card. Most importantly, it reads your card number, which can be used later to print fake cards or for online payments.

These devices can be difficult to detect but taking a few simple steps can help keep your information safe.

1. Check Your Surroundings

As a rule of thumb, consumers should avoid freestanding ATMs and self-serve gas stations in less trafficked, poorly lit areas. However, you should always be aware of your surroundings before using your card, no matter where you are. Always take a look around to see if any sings on or near the machine have been disturbed, cameras appear to be moved or tampered with, or there are any individuals lingering near the machine and acting suspiciously. When in doubt, don’t use the machine.

2. Inspect the Machine

As criminals become more sophisticated, skimming devices will as well. However, consumers should always pay careful attention to what the card reader and keypad normally look like on the ATMs you use most frequently. If anything seems loose or out of place, don’t insert your card. It’s also important to check for small cameras that may also be tacked onto the machine near the key pad.

3. Turn on Your Bluetooth

Your phone can do more than help you send text messages and check your email – it can alert you to skimming devices. If your phone has Bluetooth scanning abilities, turning on your Bluetooth may help you to identify the connection used to remotely send information from the device to the criminal. If you do activate your Bluetooth near an ATM or gas pump and you see a random series of numbers and letters pops up, it could mean a skimmer is present. Never connect to the Bluetooth device and immediately notify a branch employee, shop owner or gas station attendant.

4. Cover Your PIN

As mentioned above, small cameras may be placed on the device in order to collect your PIN. While everything may seem in order and a keypad cover is in place, it’s always a good practice to use your hand as a cover the keypad as you enter your PIN just in case because in some scenarios identity thieves will stick a camera directly on the underside of the keypad cover.

5. Check Your Statements

Regularly checking account statements is the best way to detect fraud and mitigate damages. Consumers have limited time to report unauthorized activity on their checking account. However, if you report unauthorized activity within two days of that unauthorized activity, your financial institution will reimburse you for anything over $50. Additionally, letting us know about suspicious activity soon after it occurs could help your financial institution save others from the same kind of fraud.

POSTED: Jan 12, 2018
An MCU Scam Alert – January 2018

It may be a New Year but millions of Americans continue to face an old problem – identity theft. And while consumers are getting smarter about protecting their personal and financial information, scammers are too by combining classic tactics with new technology. Staying informed is the key to getting ahead. Check out these recently reported scams that are currently affecting hardworking people everywhere.

1. Don’t Get Caught in a “Confirm Your Account” Email Phishing Scam

An email from a retailer or utility asking you to verify your account information may seem harmless but consumers should be wary. Recent reports of fraudulent emails posing as companies like Amazon and AT&T are leaving many the victims of a phishing scam.

The emails look legitimate with subject lines that read similarly, to “We could not confirm the address associated with your account” and use official company brands and colors. However, once users click on the enclosed link, identity thieves are able to gain access to their victims’ personal and financial information stored on their devices and even saved on certain browsers.

How to Avoid an Email Phishing Scam

While identity thieves have gotten good at disguising email phishing scams, consumers can protect themselves by taking a few easy steps. These include:

• Check the URL: By hovering your mouse over the top of the URL, you should be able to see if the actual hyperlinked address is different from the one that is displayed. If it is, the message is likely fraudulent and clicking the link could leave your information compromised.

• Look for poor spelling and grammar: If a message is sent from a large company, it won’t be filled with poor grammar or spelling mistakes. If you see any of these errors or notice strange formatting in the email, disregard it immediately.

• Never share personal information or send money: No matter how official an email may seem, a reputable company will never send an email asking for password, credit card or security information. Similarly, any request or demand for a payment to cover expenses, taxes or fees is a strong indicator of a scam.

• When in doubt, make a phone call: Sometimes there won’t be anything particularly wrong about an email or the request a company is making. However, if you feel uneasy, trust your gut and call the organization to confirm the email is legitimate. Always use the phone number on the official website, not one provided within the email.

2. Don’t be Tempted by a TAP Tax Return

IRS scams aren’t new but as tax season continues to leave many feeling stressed and overwhelmed, some taxpayers may become vulnerable to fraud. A second phishing scam consumers should watch out for this season is one sent by identity thieves posing to be the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP) informing victims that they are eligible for a tax refund. Once they click on the link provided, their information will become at risk of theft.

Do not respond to the email, click on any link and delete the email immediately. TAP is a volunteer board that advises the IRS on systemic issues affecting taxpayers. It will never request, and does not have access to, any taxpayer’s personal or financial information.

It’s important to note that according to the IRS, thousands of people have lost millions of dollars in tax scams. As the tax season continues through April, some warning signs that your may have been victimized by one of these scams include:

• A delay or denial of your tax refund

• Loss of unemployment or disability benefits

• Damage to your credit history or score

• A notice from the IRS that your taxes have already been prepared and submitted

3. The “Easy Money” Scam Could be a Hard Lesson

The recent Mobile Money Code scam reported by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has cost victims $7 million and could be paving the way for similar “Easy Money Schemes” consumers will need to watch out for. The scam works by offering victims a chance to pay for a “secret code” to make huge sums of money automatically. Scammers are even taking extra steps to make their offers look convincing by using fake testimonials and high-pressure upselling.

Despite a convincing façade and an offer that will surely appeal to your emotions, consumers should remember that if a deal ever seems too good to be, you should always assume that it is. It is also important to never provide your credit card information or send a money order in exchange for prizes or returns that are promised to arrive in the future.

POSTED: Jan 12, 2018
How Your Spouse's Bad Credit Can Impact Your Score

By Ashley Dull

For many marriage-bound couples, one of the most stubborn myths they face when beginning sort their finances is the one insisting that our individual credit scores somehow merge when we get married, creating a single, joint credit score for each new couple.

The fact of the matter is that there are no joint credit scores, nor does your personal credit score take into account your marital status or alter because of a change in your marital status. Neither will changing your name, whether you take on your partner’s surname or choose to hyphenate, affect your credit score. (Although you should notify your creditors and the bureaus of your new legal name.)

That said, It’s important to note that some occasions do exist in which your partner’s credit can have an impact on your own credit. Specifically, any credit accounts co-signed by both partners will be reported on both credit reports, and both partners will be responsible for repaying the debt. This means if one partner misses a payment on a co-signed account, both credit scores will see the negative impact of a missed payment.

Additionally, if both partners apply for a joint line of credit, such as a home mortgage loan, the credit of each applicant will be assessed by the lender to determine the overall credit risk of the loan. While applying as a couple can improve the size of the loan -- two incomes are better than one, in many cases -- a low credit score can have its own costs.

In particular, if one partner has poor credit, the lender may charge a higher interest rate than the higher-credit score partner would receive alone. An increased interest rate on even a percentage of a percentage point can mean thousands over the life of a loan. Worse, depending on the credit of both applicants, the lender may choose to reject the credit application altogether.

While this issue can be circumvented by having only the partner with good credit apply for the loan – then adding the second partner to the account after the fact, if desired – applying with a single income can decrease the size of the loan for which you can qualify. A couple with a joint annual income of $100,000 may qualify for a mortgage of $425,000, for instance, while a single filer with an income of $50,000 may only qualify for a $200,000 mortgage.

In these cases, the best solution may be to focus on cleaning up the credit of the poor-credit partner, then apply again when both partners have good credit. Some issues, like erroneous or incomplete information, can be easily removed through a credit report dispute filed with the credit bureaus. With help from the best credit repair experts, the process can be remarkably simple, and an experienced company may be able to remove other types of negative marks, as well.

You can also start rebuilding a positive payment history with a new credit card, making sure to pay it on time every month. Even with troubled credit, you can find a card to help you rebuild, such as applying for the MCU Secured VISA®, or, for more options, try using a site like CardRates.com to compare credit cards for bad credit.

Of course, some things you will simply need to wait out, letting them fall off naturally as they expire. Legitimate, substantiated delinquencies, defaults, and other negative accounts can remain on your credit report for seven years, at which time they must be removed. The exception to this rule is a bankruptcy discharge, which can remain on your report for up to 10 years. On the plus side, as the accounts age, they will have less impact on your overall credit score.

One last reason to address credit issues sooner, rather than later, is the fact that any joint credit accounts remain the responsibility of both partners as long as both names are on the account -- regardless of the state of your marriage. Whether you end with divorce or make it “‘til death do we part,” your shared accounts will tie you together as surely as (if not more than) the ties of matrimony.

Ashley Dull is the Finance Editor at Digital Brands, Inc., where she oversees content published on CardRates.com and BadCredit.org. Ashley works closely with experts and industry leaders in every sector of finance to develop authoritative guides, news and advice articles with regards to audience interest.

This article is provided for general informational purposes only. The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not reflect an official position of MCU. The information contained in this article, including text, graphics, links or other items are provided "as is." MCU does not warrant the article’s accuracy, adequacy or completeness and expressly disclaims any liability for errors or omissions in this article. Any links contained in the article are provided as a convenience and inclusion does not imply any relationship or endorsement between MCU and the linked site

POSTED: Jan 04, 2018
Homeownership and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) is the largest overhaul to the American tax system in 30 years, bringing reforms to tax rates, tax brackets, and tax deductions. While these changes will affect taxpayers across all socioeconomic backgrounds, America's more-than 80 million homeowners may be among the first to be affected by this new legislation.

If you’re a homeowner or potential homebuyer in the New York area, important tax code changes could affect you. Check them out below!

1. Limits to Property Tax Deduction

Limitations to the state and local tax deduction (SALT), which includes property taxes, is one of the most buzzed about changes included in the TCJA. The deduction, which is often one of the most significant for homeowners, often helps push them over the standard deduction, putting more money in their pockets when they receive their tax refunds.

While the TCJA’s newly imposed SALT deduction limit of $10,000 ($5,000 for married taxpayers filing a separate return) won’t affect all homeowners, it may affect those living in high-tax areas. According to Moody's Analytics, this includes 30 percent of homeowners in New Jersey and nearly 20 percent of homeowners in New York.

It is important to note that while affected homeowners could be losing out by not being able to fully deduct their expenses, the new higher standard deduction could offset the loss. This means that many may no longer find it financially beneficial to itemize their taxes.

2. Reduced Mortgage Interest Deductions

New limitations on mortgage interest deductions may not affect most homeowners but could influence homebuyers shopping in expensive housing markets, including the greater New York area.

Previously homeowners could deduct the interest on a mortgage up to $1,000,000 (or $500,000 for married taxpayers filing separately). Under the new Act, anyone who takes out a mortgage for a primary home between now and December 31, 2025 can now only deduct interest on a mortgage of up to $750,000 (or $375,000 for married taxpayers filing separately).

The cap applies to all homes and mortgages. This means if you already have a $750,000 mortgage and want to buy a second home next year you will not qualify to deduct the interest on that loan. However, if you have a $500,000 mortgage and plan to buy a second home, the interest on up to $250,000 of your new mortgage will be deductible.

Existing mortgages are grandfathered into the previous tax code and current homeowners can continue to deduct the interest on a mortgage up to $1,000,000.

3. Closing a Home Equality Loan Loophole

One of the benefits of being a homeowner is the ability to use the equity in your property to cover expenses such as paying for tuition or taking a vacation. However, while home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOC) have historically offered homeowners a relatively inexpensive form of borrowing, these financial products will now go without a once-added advantage.

Under the TCJA, homeowners will no longer be able to deduct the interest on their home equity-based loan products, something they were previously able to do up to $100,000. This new provision could cost a borrower several hundred dollars a year, depending on the loan amount.

4. Opportunities in the Housing Market

Less affordable monthly and annual costs for homeownership in high-tax, high-cost areas are expected to cause home prices to dip. Some experts believe the effects could trickle down to more affordable properties as well, which means opportunities for homebuyers across the board. According to Moody’s Analytics, housing prices will drop an estimated four percent nationwide and as much as 9.5 percent in Manhattan.

Taxpayers should be aware that the TCJA will affect individuals differently depending on many circumstances. To learn more about how this new legislation will specifically impact your tax situation, speak to your accountant or financial advisor.

POSTED: Dec 29, 2017
Planning for Retirement in 2018: What to Know

In 2018, important modifications and changes to retirement savings programs could impact the way savers plan for the future. Check out what’s new and different in the coming year to help maximize your retirement savings and best plan for the future.

1. Higher Contribution Limits for Workplace Retirement Plans

Employees who participate in certain retirement plans, including 401(k)s and 403(b)s, will be now be able to contribute as much as $18,500 to these accounts in 2018. This is a $500 increase from the current $18,000 limit, which was established in 2015.

2. Changes in Traditional IRA Deduction Phase-Outs

This year, contribution limits for both Traditional and Roth IRA plans will remain at $5,500 in 2018, with catch-up contributions of $1,000 for those 50 and over. However, retirement savers covered by a workplace retirement plan (such as a 401(k)) will need to keep an eye on new traditional IRA tax deduction income phase-out limits.

For single taxpayers, the 2018 Traditional IRA full deduction limit will be an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $63,000. The tax deduction is then phased out at a reported $73,000 adjusted gross income.

For married couples, the phase-out range will depend on whether the IRA contributor is covered by a workplace retirement plan or not. When the spouse who is investing has access to an employer plan, a couple can make an AGI of $101,000 to $121,000 in order to enjoy a full IRA deduction. For individuals who don't have a retirement plan but are married to someone who does, the phase out has been raised to and AGI of $189,000 to $199,000.

3. Increased Income Limits for Roth IRAs

An after-tax Roth IRA is a great way to plan for retirement, as it offers tax-free withdrawals made after the account holder turns 59 ½ years old. However, income limitations apply to those interested in contributing to these accounts. In 2018, individuals who earn less than $135,000 ($199,000 for couples) are eligible to make Roth IRA contributions; this is a $2,000 increase from 2017.

4. Increased Income Limits for the Saver’s Credit

The Savers Credit is geared to help low-to middle income retirement savers by offering a tax credit worth between 10 and 50 percent of retirement contributions, up to $2,000 for Individuals and $4,000 for couples.

In 2018, workers can now earn $500 more than last year and still qualify for the retirement savings contributions credit. This means savers who earn up to $31,500 as an individual, $47,250 as a head of household or $63,000 as part of a married couple are now eligible for the saver's credit, which can be claimed in addition to the tax deduction for saving in a traditional 401(k) or IRA.

It’s important to note that the Savers Credit can reduce the amount of tax owed to zero, but it cannot be used to provide a tax refund.

5. The Discontinuation of MyRA

Due to lack of participation, the MyRA program has been discontinued and, as of December 2017, no longer accepts new deposits from participants. However, retirement savers who want to continue to enjoy the tax benefits the program have the option to roll over their balance to a Roth IRA.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury has notified MyRA participants of the program’s discontinuation. However, those with questions about the changes and options ahead can visit www.myRA.gov for additional information.

POSTED: Dec 20, 2017
MCU’s Tips for Sticking to Your Financial Resolutions in 2018

Welcoming in the New Year means taking on new resolutions. If your goals for 2018 include becoming more financially fit, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, according to the consumer research organization Nielsen, 25 percent of New Year’s resolutions include the better management of money.

Sticking to your resolutions can be tough, but If you’re ready to work hard and achieve your goals, we’re ready to help! Check out our tips below on how to achieve your financial resolutions in 2018.

1. Consider your Habits
Nobody likes making mistakes but looking back on your missteps can be a valuable tool when it comes to breaking bad financial habits. By taking time to evaluate how you’ve struggle to manage your finances in the past, you’ll be able to take steps that will make a meaningful impact on your financial fitness.Taking the time to sort these documents in advance will not only save you the trouble during crunch time, but will also help to reduce the risk of errors when filing your taxes.
For example, by recognizing that you have a habit of overspending on your weekly groceries, you can recognize the value in taking time to clip coupons or order groceries online where you can’t be tempted by impulse purchases.

2. Set SMART Goals
Oftentimes, achieving your New Year’s resolutions can be made much easier just by verbalizing or recording them in a way that will motivate you. For example, saying that you’d like to save more money may not emotionally motivate you the way that saying that you’d like to save $5,000 by the end of the year to put towards a new car might.

In order to set a meaningful and motivating goal, it’s important to remember it must be “SMART” – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time sensitive.

  • Specific: Keep your goal as focused and clear-cut as possible. This will allow you to visualize your endgame and take the appropriate steps to achieve it.
  • Measurable: Be sure you can set small milestones or take inventory of your progress as you go so you can feel confident about your progress towards your final goal.
  • Achievable: Your goal can be ambitious, but it shouldn’t be too lofty.
  • Realistic: If your goal is to find a bag full of money on the street, it’s time to try again. Your goals and resolutions shouldn’t only be achievable under the best case or unusual circumstances.
  • Time Sensitivity: A timeline is a key component to setting your goals. Give your goals a deadline and only change them if it’s absolutely required.

3. Get Your Friends and Family Involved
If you’ve struggled with following through on goals, this year is a great opportunity to break the cycle by getting your friends and family involved. By including your loved ones, you’ll not only have extra resources and support, but will also be held accountable for achieving your resolutions. It may not always be easy to talk about money, but by sharing ideas, brainstorming and making changes together can both create help create positive financial habits and bring people together. To learn to get started on how to include your family in your financial goals, check out our blog post Reaching Financial Goals as a Family.

4. Create a Budget
No matter what your financial goals are, your budget will be the key to your success by providing you with a blueprint that will help you stay vigilant of your finances. By creating a breakdown of spending, income and debts, you’ll be able to better identify wasteful spending, adapt quickly to financial emergencies and begin to make headway on your future plans.

To learn more about how to create a budget that can work for you, check out our blog post MCU’s Tips for Creating an Effective Spending Plan.

5. Set Up Direct Deposit
Setting aside savings to achieve your financial goals can seem daunting. However, by using direct deposit and automated transfers, you can begin to put as much or as little away as you want each month without even having to think about it.

Depending on your goals and priorities, direct deposit can be used to allocate funds to a checking account used exclusively to make loan payments, a 529 or other college savings account, Holiday or Vacation Club Account, or even an after-tax investment account.

And using direct deposit won’t just ensure that your annual goals are met, but will give you the confidence to freely use any money still available in your personal account after the deductions.

POSTED: Dec 19, 2017
The Benefit of Direct Deposit For Your Tax Refund
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Still getting your tax refund by mail? Try direct deposit and receive it earlier! Without having to visit a branch location, your refund will be made available quickly and easily as it is automatically electronically deposited into your checking or savings (share) account! According to the IRS, eight out of 10 taxpayers have already jumped on board with this method of receiving their refund and it’s easy to understand why – at no cost to you, your refund can be safely and securely deposited into up to three separate accounts.

To receive your tax refund through direct deposit, simply select it as your refund method through your tax software and type in the account number and routing number (you can even select this option when filing your taxes on paper!) or let your tax preparer know you want your refund delivered via direct deposit. To help avoid any errors, be sure to double check your entry to avoid errors.

If you’re not sure what your routing and account numbers are, you can locate them easily on your personal checks.

POSTED: Dec 06, 2017
Five End-of-Year Tips for Preparing your Taxes

For many of us, end-of-year celebrations and the holiday season can fill our calendars and minds. However, they can also become distractions from the upcoming tax season looming ahead. By taking just a few small steps with your taxes now, you can make a big difference when it comes time to file. Check out our tips below!

1. Get Organized

Whether you plan to file your taxes yourself or to hire a professional preparer, you’ll need to be sure you have all of your paperwork in order. This means taking time to locate all of your invoices, bank statements, W-2 forms and proof of investments and putting them in the same format and the same system. This may be as easy as scanning them into a PDF document or preparing original documents in a folder or file that can be saved securely and located easily.

Taking the time to sort these documents in advance will not only save you the trouble during crunch time, but will also help to reduce the risk of errors when filing your taxes.

Because taxpayers are supposed to hold onto these tax documents for up to seven years, creating an organized system won’t just prepare you for this year’s tax filing, but will also come in handy if you should ever find yourself being auditing.

2. Contribute to your Tax-Deferred Retirement Accounts

If you’ve received an end-of-year raise or bonus, consider putting it towards your 401(k) or IRA in order to maximize your tax-deferred contributions for the year. According to the IRS, a worker under the age of 50 is allowed to contribute up to $18,000 to his or her 401(k) in 2017, while those over the age of 50 can contribute up to $24,000.

While it may not seem plausible to set aside the maximum contribution amount, workers should aim to at least contribute the maximum that may be matched by their employer or whatever may fit your budget. Learn more about maximizing your 401(k) contribution here.

According to TurboTax, taxpayers should also consider contributing to their Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), which can be made for 2017 up until April 17, 2018. You can contribute a maximum of $5,500 to an IRA for 2017, as well as an extra $1,000 if you are 50 or older.

These contributions will not only allow you to benefit from tax-deferred financial growth, but will also reduce your taxable income.

3. Consider your Charitable Giving

If you plan to itemize your tax deductions, any donation you’ve made to a charitable organization throughout the year, even as late as December 31, can benefit you with a tax deduction. These donations can be both monetary and nonmonetary and will require different kinds of paperwork for when filing your taxes.

For example, a monetary donation, whether by cash, credit card, check, or payroll deduction will require a written statement from the charity, which you can ask for at the time of your donation. If you’re lacking an acknowledgment, contact the charity and ask for it, as you’ll need it for when you file your return.

Similarly, if you have donated an item, you’ll need to keep detailed receipts for your records. If the total value of your donation exceeds $500, there are certain items that your tax preparer will need to claim the charitable contribution on your tax return, including a receipt of the donation (along with the date of the donation and the charity’s details) and the market value of the item donated.

4. Set up a Meeting with your Tax Preparer

If you do plan to have a professional file your taxes, now is the time to set up an appointment. April 17 – tax day – may seem far away but tax accountants and preparers can become inundated quickly. Booking early can save you the stress of potentially being turned away and will give you time to make sure your preparer has everything he or she will need.

POSTED: Dec 06, 2017
Holiday Scams to Avoid this Season

To many, the holidays mean gift giving and family. Unfortunately, this time of year is also a time when fraud and identity theft affect consumers at alarming rates. While consumers are getting smarter, identity thieves are using new tricks and schemes to get their hands on financial and personal information. In fact, according to ACI Worldwide, fraud attempts are expected to increase by 30 percent this peak holiday season, compared to last year!

From gift card scams to fake charities, check out the common holiday scams consumers will need to watch out for this year!

1. Charity Cons

The holidays are a great time to give back to your community and donate to charitable organizations. However, an intended good deed could put leave you a victim of scammers or identity thieves. Recently, scammers have been found to send emails posing as popular or seemingly legitimate charities and asking for you to make a donation via your credit card. Once you make a payment, thieves will have access to your personal and financial information.

If you receive an email asking for a donation, it’s best to be skeptical and to go straight to the charity’s website and make a donation there. If you’re unsure if the charity is legitimate, check out charities at give.org before donating, or contact the charity directly to make sure they sent the donation request.

2. Gift Card Fraud

Gift cards can be great gifts for loved ones during the holidays. However, consumers should be aware of the following gift card schemes that could sour the Season of Giving. For example, scammers are increasingly selling counterfeit and fraudulent gift cards on auction websites and sellers have been found to overstate the value of real gift cards they are selling so buyers will overpay.

To make sure you’re getting a fair deal on your purchase, avoid purchasing gift cards from third-party vendors.

3. Holiday eCard Phishing Scams

It’s not uncommon to receive a holiday eCard but don’t let a subject line like “Merry Christmas” distract you from always being alert and cautious before opening an email. Fake notifications for eCards have become an increasingly common and an often-successful way for scammers to trick you into letting down your defenses. You click on a link that will supposedly take you to a greeting, but instead the link unleashes a malicious program that will give cyber-crooks remote access to your online bank accounts and passwords.

To help combat this scam, always check to see if you recognize the email address from which the e-card was sent and keep an eye out for grammatical or spelling errors within the email’s content. If it seems suspicious, do not click on any links within the email and delete it immediately.

4. Fraudulent Shopping Apps

Shopping on your smartphone or tablet? You’re definitely not alone. eCommerce statistics show that in 2017, 62 percent of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last 6 months.

To help protect your information this holiday season, look twice before you download a shopping app. In 2016 alone, hundreds of fake retail and product apps were reported in the Apple App Store in the weeks leading up to the holidays. Oftentimes, these counterfeit apps look strikingly similar to those belonging to popular retail chain stores and luxury-goods makers.

While many of them may be relatively harmless knockoff apps that serve for popup ads, accidentally entering any card or personal information can lead to potential fraud.

POSTED: Nov 16, 2017
MCU’s Tips for Avoiding Financial Stress this Holiday Season

The holidays may be a time of fun, feast and family, but the “Season of Giving” can also mean overspending and financial anxiety. Between entertaining, buying gifts and traveling, the holidays can leave a strain on your budget and cause financial anxiety. Luckily, avoiding holiday financial stress is possible. Check out our easy tips can help you save money, stay on budget and keep the “Happy” in “Happy Holidays!” this season.

1. Create a Budget and Stick to it

It’s easy to get carried away during the holidays but according to a survey commissioned VISA Inc., shoppers shouldn’t spend more than 1.5 percent of their household annual budget on holiday gifts and entertainment. A great way to stay on track financially with gift-giving is to create a micro budget for each person you plan to buy a gift for. This will keep you thinking about your budget with each purchase.

2. Plan Your Holiday Travel in Advance

It’s true the holidays can sneak up on you, but getting a head start on your shopping before the season is in full swing will give you the opportunity to take advantage of more sales and compare prices as you go. If you’re one of the more than 98 million Americans who will travel during this holiday season, you can save hundreds of dollars just by booking tickets in advance. According to a study published by CheapAir.com, the optimal time to book flights at the lowest price is more than seven weeks in advance. For example, the cheapest flights around Thanksgiving were booked 14 weeks in advance.

3. Avoid Last Minute Shopping Situations

In addition to planning your travel in advance, making enough time to check everything off of your shopping list in advance will help you to avoid over spending. This is because you’ll have enough to time to find the right gifts that are also right for your budget, instead of rushing to get items wrapped and on their way to loved ones. Shopping in advance will also help you to fight stress and avoid chaos, crowds and long lines that come with heading to the stores just days before the holidays.

4. Keep an eye out for coupons, discounts and deals

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are known for their great sales, seasonal and holiday coupons can also save you some money when it comes to shopping. If you’re shopping online, be sure to search the web for existing coupon or promo codes before finalizing your purchase. These codes oftentimes go under the radar and aren’t well publicized. This little known trick can go a long way when it comes to saving this holiday season!

5. Create a Separate Savings Account for Holiday and Gift Expenses

Creating a designated account for gifts, entertainment and travel can help relieve financial stress by keeping your everyday saving separate from what you’ve set aside for the holidays. By only allowing yourself to withdrawn from your designated holiday account will also help to stick to your designated budget.

For MCU Members, the MCU Holiday Club Account is a great way to save, plan and manage your money for the upcoming holidays. With as little as $5.00 down, you can make direct deposits with each paycheck and watch your savings grow. On November 1, the funds will be transferred to your FasTrack Checking or Share Account for easy access. To start saving for next year’s holiday season, sign up for an MCU Holiday Club Account today!

6. Set up Account Alerts

There’s nothing more stressful than having your financial or personal information compromised during the holiday season. As you increase your card utilization online, at ATMs and while making purchases at the shops, you may be at a greater risk of having your card information compromised. Keeping an eye on your accounts is one of the best ways to spot and report potential fraud as early as possible, potentially saving you time, hassle and money.
One of the easiest ways for members to monitor their MCU accounts for suspicious activity is to enroll in MCU Account Alerts through NYMCU® Online Banking. These email or text message* notifications will be automatically sent to your cell phone or email when certain activity occurs within your account. If you do receive a notification regarding your account that looks out of the ordinary or suspicious, be sure to let us know immediately!

* Standard text message rates apply according to your plan. Delivery of alerts may be delayed for various reasons.

POSTED: Nov 07, 2017
Cyber Monday Shopping Safety Tips

With bigger and better deals every year and the convenience of avoiding the holiday mayhem at the shops, it’s no wonder why nearly 70 percent of consumers are expected to jump online to take advantage of Cyber Monday deals this year.

While Cyber Monday may mean saving big, it’s important for consumers to stay savvy when it comes to shopping online all holiday season. And with a reported more than 50 percent of Cyber Monday shoppers planning to make purchases from their mobile devices, protecting your financial and personal security will mean taking extra precautions.

Check out our tips below!

1. Stick to Secure Websites

Only submit your card details or sensitive information to secure websites. These websites ensure a safe, encrypted channel for a website to transfer data to a browser, and vice versa. They also verify the identity of each party — the vendor and consumer – and guarantee that your data will not be intercepted.

To be sure you are using a secure website, check for a small padlock symbol in the address bar. The web address will also begin with “https://:” (the s stands for 'secure').

2. Don’t Shop on Unsecured Wi-Fi Hotspots

Free public Wi-Fi networks can often be found in coffee shops, restaurants and airports. While these hotspots are handy, they should be used cautiously, especially when it comes to accessing personal information. Unsecured Wi-Fi networks don’t require passwords and can be easily hacked by thieves who can gather all of the sites you accessed while on the network and all of the personal information you entered there.

Stick to shopping on a secure Wi-Fi hotspot that requires a password or use your phone’s network data.

3. Don’t Fall for “Too-Good-To-Be-True” Offers

You may be on the prowl for great Cyber Monday deals but if it looks too good to be true, it’s best to assume it is. Identity thieves and cybercriminals are known to prey on bargain hunters this time of year. Watch out especially for email and text messages promising unreal deals. By clicking on links within these messages, you could be leaving your device vulnerable phishing software or malware.

4. Update Your Anti-Virus Software

Keeping Anti-virus and anti-phishing tools on all computers can help you to detect and remove viruses and keyloggers that can steal your personal and financial information. Updating these systems regularly will help you to protect your devices from the latest viruses and will help to cover any upgrades you may have made within your operating system.

5. Check for Fraudulent Apps

Shopping on your phone or tablet? Look twice before you download an app. In 2016 alone, hundreds of fake retail and product apps were reported in the Apple App Store in the weeks leading up to the holidays. Oftentimes, these counterfeit apps look strikingly similar to those belonging to popular retail chain stores and luxury-goods makers.

While many of them may be relatively harmless knockoff apps that serve for popup ads, accidentally entering any card or personal information can lead to potential fraud.

6. Set Up MCU Account Alerts

While there may always be some risk to shopping online, keeping an eye on your accounts is one of the best ways to spot and report potential fraud as early as possible, potentially saving you time and money.

One of the easiest ways for members to monitor their MCU accounts for suspicious activity is to enroll in MCU Account Alerts through NYMCU® Online Banking. These email or text message* notifications will be automatically sent to your cell phone or email when certain activity occurs within your account. If you do receive a notification regarding your account that looks out of the ordinary or suspicious, be sure to let us know immediately!

* Standard text message rates apply according to your plan. Delivery of alerts may be delayed for various reasons..

POSTED: Oct 27, 2017
An MCU Scam Roundup - Fall 2017

You may be working hard to protect your personal and financial information but criminals are still defrauding many victims by combining new technology with old tricks. Staying informed is key in avoiding being victimized by these new and advanced scams. Check out these recent scams reported by the Better Business Bureau that are currently affecting hardworking people everywhere.

1. Stay Smart and Steer Clear of the College Fund Scam

The New York Department of State, Division of Consumer Protection is warning consumers of a phishing scam targeting college students. Identity thieves are posing as representatives of government agencies and contacting students, claiming they are eligible for state government funds available for higher education. Victims of this scam are then told they will need to provide their financial information in order for said funds to be deposited into their checking account directly. They’re then asked to click on a link for more information. These links will expose your computer and personal information to scammers.

If you receive an email like this or one of a similar suspicious nature, it’s important to know the following:

• Do not click on links or open attachments in any email that is from an unknown source.

• Know that the only financial aid information you can trust will come directly from the federal government or the college itself, unless you have requested information from private financial institutions. Solicitation offers are highly suspicious.

• Pay attention to the details within messages you received. Phishing emails often include grammatical errors and may address the recipient incorrectly.

• Only use built-in spam filters from your mailbox to report spams. Do not click on any link from the message you received even though it says “report as spam”. Do not click on any “unsubscribe” link from unknown senders.

• Never share your personal information, such as bank account number, full name, home address or social security number.

2. No, Equifax isn’t Calling

Scammers are reportedly taking advantage of nervous consumers in the wake of the highly publicized Equifax data breach. Most notably, identity thieves are posing as the credit reporting agency and asking consumers to verify account information and provide additional details. It’s important to know that Equifax or similar organizations like financial institutions will never contact you by phone requesting information like this for any reason. If you receive a phone call like this, the following steps can help protect your personal and financial information:

• Never provide any personal or financial information unless you’ve initiated the call and it’s to a phone number you know is correct

• Don’t trust caller ID. Scammers can spoof their numbers so it looks like they are calling from a particular company, even when they’re not.

• If you get an automated call, hang up. Don't press any number on your keypad in attempt to speak with a representative or take your phone number off the list. This will likely just lead to more calls.

According to the Better Business Bureau, If you’ve already received a call that you think is fake, report it to the FTC. If you gave your personal information to an imposter, you’ll need to change compromised passwords, account numbers or security questions.

3. Phony Employment Offers

Employment scams may be little known to many consumers but are becoming increasingly common. Victims may see an ad on a poster or even be contacted directly through a job or employment website by an identity thief posing as head hunters or potential employers.

These scammers may offer their victims a brief interview over the phone, web chat, or through email before offering the job to their victims. The victim is then told that before they can begin working, they’ll have to provide personal information like their bank account information and even pay money up front for work provisions, supplies or certificates.

Once the scammers have what they want, they’ll be sure to disappear.

Luckily, employment scams can be easy to recognize and avoid. Here are some things to watch out for:

• Some listed job opportunities are more likely to be scams than others. Work-from-home; secret shopper positions or any job with a generic job title, such as caregiver, can be a red flag for fraud. Because these positions often don't require special training or licensing, they appeal to a wide range of applicants, bringing in more potential victims for the scammers.

• Search the web for similar job postings. If identical job listings appear in other cities with the exact same job post, it is likely a scam. Also, check the real company's job page to make sure the position is listed there.

• Beware of on-the-spot job offers. You may be an excellent candidate for the job, but know that offers made without an interview uncommon and suspicious. A real company will want to talk to a candidate before hiring him or her.

• Don't fall for an overpayment scam. No legitimate job would ever overpay an employee and ask him/her wire the money elsewhere. This is a common trick used by scammers.

• Avoid any job that asks you to share personal information or hand over money. Scammers will often use the guise of running a credit check, setting up direct deposit or paying for training. This information can then be used for identity theft, so be absolutely certain before you share.

POSTED: Oct 18, 2017
ATM and Debit Card Fraud PreventionTips

Your debit card is a convenient and smart way to make purchases, manage your money and keep a budget. However, a recent increase in fraudulent schemes and theft means that card and ATM safety is more important than ever when it comes to protecting your money and personal information. To help safeguard your account and personal information, check out these useful ATM and Debit fraud prevention tips.

1.Location, location, location

Protecting yourself from ATM fraud can be as easy as avoiding certain remote ATMs and point of sale devices. These free-standing ATMs, which are often found in low-trafficked and poorly lit areas outside of grocery stores and bodegas, are most vulnerable to being tampered with by thieves. Similarly, self-serve gas pumps that accept credit cards at stations are known to have high instances of tampering.

It may be a bit out of the way when you’re out and about, but the safest ATMs you can use are always the ones located in the vestibules of a financial institutions that require a card to gain access.

2. Check the ATM for tampering

ATM skimming has become an increasing threat to cardholders. According to Bankrate.com, theft from ATM skimming is approaching $1 billion annually and Javelin estimates that one in five people have been hit by an ATM skimmer.

Before using an ATM or point-of-sale terminal, take a good look at the keypad and card slot and check to see if anything is loose or out of place. The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs additionally recommends checking for keypads that appear raised or have an unusual color. A thief could have placed an overlay on the keypad to record the personal identification number you punch in.

It’s important to also note that some gas pumps have security tape that forms a seal around the card reader. If the seal is broken, it could mean the reader has been compromised.

When in doubt, don’t use the device.

3. Protect your PIN

Always shield the screen and keypad when entering your PIN or transaction amount. In addition to threat of “shoulder surfers”, or individuals trying to get a glimpse of your personal information from over your shoulder, thieves are increasingly installing pinhole cameras on or near ATMs and point-of-sale devices to record the information input.

Cardholders can also easily protect their PIN information by memorizing it so that they never have to write it down. When selecting a PIN, it’s strongly recommended to avoid numbers and letters that relate to your personal information and can be easily guessed. For example, don't use your initials, birthday, telephone or Social Security number.

4. Stay vigilant to those around you

It’s important to stay mindful of the people around you before beginning an ATM transaction. In addition to traditional thieves, shoulder surfers may hang around ATMs with the intention of stealing your personal information. If you see anyone or anything suspicious, cancel your transaction and leave immediately. As an extra precaution when using an enclosed ATM that requires your card to open the door, avoid letting strangers follow you inside.

If anyone does follow you after you’ve completed a transaction, go to a crowded, well-lit area and call the police.

5. Check your transactions

Take time to regularly examine your bank account activity online to see whether funds have been withdrawn that you didn't authorize. As an additional precaution, you should hold on to your ATM receipts and check them against your monthly statement. You can also set up alerts so that you're notified when funds are withdrawn.

6. Immediately report a lost or stolen card to your financial institution

If your ATM or debit card is lost or stolen, be sure to contact your financial institution and report it immediately. Acting fast limits your liability for charges you didn’t authorize. Once you report the loss of your ATM or debit card, federal law says you cannot be held liable for unauthorized transfers that occur after that time.

POSTED: Oct 13, 2017
Reaching Financial Goals as a Family

Whether you’re looking to purchase a new home, save for retirement or just get out of debt, enlisting every member of your family and household is an important step as you work towards reaching your financial goals. It may not always be easy to talk about money but sharing information, brainstorming and making changes together over time can help families create positive financial habits and even bring people closer together.

To get started on successfully creating and implementing a new family budget, check out these tips below.

1. Get Everyone Involved

Families can often make the mistake of relying on one person to manage the money but the first step to successfully reaching a financial goal is to get everybody involved and aware of the situation.

If you’ve been primarily managing the family finances, it’s important to help everyone understand that the family has new goals that require everyone to make changes. While these conversations are difficult, it’s important for them to take place while every member of the family (including children) is present and to remember to consider all of the comments and questions of each family member.

These conversations are especially important, otherwise absent family members can derail the process.

2. Work Together to Develop an Accurate Diagnosis

Before a family can begin to manage their money differently, they’ll need to take time to fully understand their cash flow. To do this, keep track and make a list of all of your earnings and spending for approximately 2-3 months. Be sure to record every purchase, no matter how small.

Tracking your spending will quickly reveal where problems occur but it’s important not to let family members blame each other. Many small problems may resolve themselves once every member of the family understands the issue, but others will require you to work together.

3. Create a “Game Plan” Everybody Can Get Behind

A game plan can’t be successful if the whole family isn’t on board and ready to follow it. This means everyone’s input, priorities and ideas will need to be included so that each person feels heard and validated. Including the entire family will also help everybody understand that these changes require teamwork and collaboration. For example, the family may agree to start packing lunches instead of eating out, take public transportation more often or begin sharing more often.

Putting this plan together is a great opportunity to get creative. When every member of the family is involved and willing to be flexible, approaches or schedules that seemed unworkable can suddenly become possible.

The game plan should always be put in writing, and should include a contingency plan to specify what happens if the family fails to meet the goals. This is especially reassuring for children, who need to know there’s a “Plan B” so family members can refer to it when questions arise.

4. Don’t Keep Spending Changes a Secret From Extended Family

Sharing your decision to make positive financial changes with friends and extended family is a great way to find additional support from loved ones and even pick up a few tips. For example, they may be more willing to hold a potluck instead of having dinner at a restaurant if they know an evening out isn’t in your budget anymore.

Your announcement may even free other family members to discuss their own issues and concerns. Issues that can be addressed include meals out, unnecessary driving trips, gifts, clothes, and special activities.

POSTED: Oct 12, 2017
Tips for Choosing the Right Credit Card

Credit is nothing new to Americans. According to data from Gallup, the average American has 2.6 credit cards and an average of $16,048 in credit card debt. For many of these consumers, special offers such as low balance transfers and enticing “teaser rates’ can play a significant role in their decision to open a new credit card.

However, if these enticing offers seem too good to be true, they likely are and consumers should always proceed with caution. In order to ensure you’re getting the best credit card for your needs and lifestyle, consumers will need to consider a few important factors.

1. Balance Transfer Offers

Appealing teaser offers and introductory rates may encourage consumers to transfer their high-interest debt to a lower-interest card in order to save money. However, it’s important to know the nuances of the balance transfer offer.

For example a balance transfer fee can play a role in whether or not choosing to transfer your debt is actually cost effective. Depending on the credit card, these fees can be as expensive as five percent of the amount transferred. On a $5,000 balance, the fee will add $250 to the amount owed. Additionally, the balance transfer limit may not allow you to transfer the entire balance of your high-interest credit card.

2. Interest Rates

You may not realize it, but your new credit card may not be as affordable as you thought. It’s easy to be enticed by appealing introductory rates but before signing on the dotted line, consumers will need to know for how long that rate will last, how it will change and what the maximum interest they may face.

3. Fees

Be sure to always read the fine print and to know the conditions of the card you are opening. A credit card can come with several fees that can add up quickly! They include:

  • Application Fee – A consumer can be charged with an application fee once they receive card approval. This is usually a flat fee and should be avoided. If you’re required to call a 900 number to apply for the card, that also may generate a fee.

  • Annual Holding Fee – this yearly charge is typically a flat fee that is in addition to any purchases charged. Even if you do not use this credit card, you will incur an annual fee. While many credit card companies and financial institutions will waive this fee, some credit cards can come with an annual fee amount to hundreds of dollars!

  • Processing fee – in addition to an application fee, a processing fee may be charged simply for the task of processing the application. These fees are more likely to be charged if the individual fails to qualify for the initial card offer and s then instead offered a less appealing offer. This fee is relatively rare, but is sometimes charged by the less reputable companies.

4 . Your Lifestyle

Ask yourself if the card compliments money management style and spending practices.

For example credit card details and features including grace periods and rewards programs should be consistent with your lifestyle and credit card habits. A grace period is the number of days after a purchase is made before the credit card company or financial institution begins to charge interest. For consumers who pay their card in full each month, a longer grace period may be more important than a lower annual interest rate.

Additionally, while it can be important to take advantage of reward programs or gain discounts on specific purchases, it generally has a smaller impact than interest rates and fees.

POSTED: Oct 04, 2017
Tips and Tools for Avoiding NSF Fees

Using your debit card comes with many advantages. Most notably, your debit card gives you the benefit of quickly and easily making purchases without the potential of running up a credit card bill you may not be able to pay at the end of the month. Nevertheless, the many types of debit card and checking account transactions make it difficult at times to keep up with your balances. And if you end up making more transactions than your account balance can handle, you may be charged with a Non-Sufficient Funds (NSF) Fee.

An NSF Fee is assessed whenever you write a check or make a debit or electronic payment (one time or recurring) and the payment or check is returned as unpayable due to insufficient available funds in your account. NSF Fees are a big price to pay for not keeping track of your account balances.

Following are some recommendations to help you stay on top of your account balances and avoid being charged NSF fees:

  • Check Your Balances Regularly:
    The most important tip to avoid NSF Fees is simple: check your balances on a regular basis to make sure you have sufficient available funds in your account to cover checks, debit card purchases, electronic payments, recurring withdrawals and any other payments you have scheduled. You can monitor your balances daily via NYMCU Online Banking, the NYMCU Mobile Banking App, and by setting up an Account Activity Summary Alert, which can conveniently send you an email or text message with a summary of your transactions and balances each morning.
  • Avoid Using Debit Cards to Buy Gas, Rent Cars and at Hotels: These types of businesses often place temporary blocks or holds on your checking account for security reasons, for amounts that exceed the amount of your purchase or rental, when you pay by debit card. These blocks and holds can tie up funds in your checking account needed for other purchases. Using a credit card or cash for hotels and car rentals, and gas can save you from paying more than you should in the long run.
  • Set up Automatic Electronic Payments:
    Automatic electronic payments (ACH payments) are a great way to conveniently pay bills without having to wait for a mailed check to be received and deposited by a merchant. Electronic payments are processed more quickly than paper check transactions, often within one business day, so you will spend less time wondering when payments will be completed.
  • Stop Recurring/Scheduled Transactions If Your Balance Drops:
    Be careful when scheduling automatic recurring electronic payments. If you think you will not have sufficient funds available in your account to cover an upcoming payment, you can place a Stop Payment Order with MCU. The Stop Payment fee is less than the NSF Fee. However, MCU may not be able to stop a payment unless the Stop Payment request is received at least three business days before the payment date. You may also be able to cancel a scheduled payment with some merchants and creditors for free.

    An NSF Fee can be charged to your account each and every time that a check or an electronic withdrawal request is returned unpaid. But there are laws that limit the number of times that a merchant or creditor can attempt to withdraw funds from your account for the same transaction. If you think a company is making excessive withdrawal requests, contact them immediately and tell them to stop. If that doesn’t work, place a Stop Payment Order with MCU.

For more information on NSF Fees, please refer to our Schedule of Dividends, Service Charges and Fees. For more information on NYMCU Online Banking, NYMCU Mobile Banking, and Account Alerts, please visit the Digital Banking section of our website.

POSTED: Sep 26, 2017
Credit 101: Tackling Frequently Asked Questions

Credit is important. However, if you’re feeling in the dark about what it is and how it works, you’re definitely not alone. According to a recent study conducted by NerdWallet and Harris Polls, most Americans don’t understand the basic ins and outs of credit.

Knowing how credit works and how it can affect you is an important step in the journey to achieving your financial goals. Not sure where to start? Check out our FAQ!

What is a Credit Score?

A credit score is a number between 300 and 850 that is calculated from an individual’s credit report and can play a significant role in how lenders assess your credit-worthiness, which is simply how trustworthy a financial institution or creditor determines you to be. For example, a strong credit score and history demonstrates to potential employers, utility companies, financial institutions and even landlords that you are a responsible person who pays their bills on time.

It’s important to note that each person has several different credit scores. Most notably, the three major credit rating agencies Experian, Equifax and TransUnion will each generate their own.

What Makes Up a Credit Score?

While information such as age, income, ethnicity and marital status don’t influence your credit score, five key factors will affect your score to varying degrees. They are:

  • Payment history (35 percent). You payment history takes into account how reliable you have been in making payments on time and if you have any payment delinquencies.
  • Credit utilization (30 percent). This factor measure how much you owe on your accounts and the amount of available credit used on your revolving accounts.
  • Length of credit history (15 percent). Your credit history is made up of how long accounts have been opened the length of time since credit cards were last used.
  • Types of credit used (10 percent). The mix of accounts you have, such as revolving and installment can play role in your credit score.
  • New credit (10 percent). This refers to your pursuit of new credit, including credit inquiries and the number of recently opened accounts.

What are the Benefits of a Good Credit Score?

Having a good credit score, which is considered to be 720 or higher, comes with several important benefits, including:

  • Increased credit card limits
  • Competitive mortgage and refinancing rates
  • Lower financing rates for loans and insurance
  • Excellent credit card deals
  • Leverage when negotiating with lenders

How Can a Poor Credit Score Affect Me?

Having a poor credit score, which is considered to be 620 or lower, can come with significant drawbacks, including:

  • Higher interest rates on credit cards and loans
  • Difficulty getting approved for a loan or credit card
  • Trouble getting approved for an apartment
  • Security deposits required for utilities
  • More expensive insurance premiums

How Can I Build Credit?

The key to building a good credit score is to avoid carrying a lot or debt and to create a borrowing history that demonstrates you are able to consistently pay your bills on time.

To start, set up automatic payments for fixed monthly bills, like cell phones or cable. This will not only make paying your bills easy, but will ensure you never miss a payment. If you are unable to set up an automatic payment, setting a reminder for when bills are due can also help.

Having a healthy relationship with credit is also important and having a credit card can help to bolster your credit score even if it’s only used minimally. If you don’t qualify for a traditional credit card, consider a secured credit card like the MCU Secured VISA® Credit Card, where you can obtain a credit line equal to the deposit you make, helping you to steadily improve your credit score.

My Credit Isn’t Great. How Can I Started to Rebuild it?

In addition to working towards creating a strong payment history, those with already damaged credit will have to work extra hard to show they can have a healthy relationship with credit. This means that paying down your debt is essential. Freezing your credit cards or using them only in emergencies is the first step.

Once you’ve taken on a new attitude towards using your credit card, you’ll need to set up a plan in which you can put a large piece of your budget towards your highest interest credit cards, while maintaining your other minimum payments will be the most effective step to minimizing your debt.

You can also consider consolidating your debt in order to pay it off more easily. However, It’s important to make sure the loan you are taking in order to consolidate your debts comes with decent rates and terms.

How Can I Check My Credit Score?

Before you look to an online service for your credit score, check your credit card and loan statements. Many major credit card companies and some auto loan companies have begun to provide credit scores for all their customers on a monthly basis.

However, checking your credit score isn’t enough. As a consumer, you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies Equifax, Experian and Transunion. You can order these reports online from annualcreditreport.com, which is the only authorized website for free credit reports, or call 1-877-322-8228. To receive your credit report, you will need to provide your name, address, social security number, and date of birth to verify your identity.

POSTED: Sep 21, 2017
MCU’s Tips for Consumers Affected by Identity Theft

While you may be taking active steps to protect your personal and account information, new scams and recent data breaches have left millions of Americans vulnerable. To stay proactive in protecting your information, consumers can stay vigilant by keeping an eye out for the following warning signs:

  • Receiving a credit card that you didn’t apply for
  • Being denied credit or being offered less favorable credit terms like a high interest rate, for no apparent reason
  • Getting calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you didn’t buy

1. Notify Financial Institutions and Credit Card Companies

If an account or existing credit line has been affected, notifying your financial institution or credit card company should be your first priority and can save you money and a lot of trouble down the road. For example, the Fair Credit Billing Act specifies that your maximum liability for unauthorized charges is $50. However because most credit cards have zero-liability policies, consumers are often protected from having to take on any liability at all.

Consumers can then work with their financial institution or card company to determine the best course of action. This may be as easy as changing login information, passwords or PINs or may require closing accounts or placing a freeze on accounts so changes or charges cannot be made until you agree to them.

2. Monitor all Statements for Suspicious Activity

If you’ve noticed fraud or suspicious activity on one account, it’s very important to check other statements and financial records for other charges or activity you don’t recognize. This includes dormant or infrequently used accounts.

If you find unknown charges, call the financial institutions to alert them of the problem and request the account be locked or closed.

3. Place a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Report

As a consumer, you’re entitled to at least one free credit report from each agency each year, which you can receive through one of the three credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax or TransUnion.

In addition to this report, consumers who believe they may be as risk of fraud can place a fraud alert on their credit report. Placing an alert is not only free but will also make it more difficult for new accounts to be opened in your name. To place an alert you’ll only have to contact one of the three reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax or TransUnion). That company will alert the other two.

A fraud alert can be extended for up to seven years if a consumer provides proof to the credit reporting agencies that they are a victim of identity theft. A fraud alert will notify any institution that pulls your credit report to the fact your identity may be compromised. This will also prompt creditors to take additional steps in verifying your identity should you open any new accounts.

4. Consider Freezing Your Credit

For an extra layer of protection, consumers can also initiate a credit freeze. Like a fraud alert, a credit freeze also typically free for victims of identity theft. And while a credit freeze can be a good way to prevent ongoing fraud, it will likely also make it difficult receive approval for loans or credit cards.

It’s important to note that consumers will have to reach out to credit reporting agency individually to place the freeze.

5. File a report with the Federal Trade Commission

Once you have determined the extent of the fraud, consumers should file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Simply visit IdentityTheft.gov, create an account and Include as many details as possible. Based on the information provided, the FTC will create an identity theft report and recovery and track your progress, and pre-fill forms and letters for you. Your Identity Theft Report is important because it provides evidence of fraud, making it easier to correct discrepancies.

6. File a Police Report

Filing a police report helps identity theft victims gain access to the legal benefits. As a victim of identity theft, you should obtain a detailed police report about your situation. It is important to file detailed reports both locally as well as in the jurisdiction where the fraud occurred.

To file a police report it’s important to provide a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report, a government-issued ID with a photo, proof of your address (mortgage statement, rental agreement, or utilities bill) and any other proof of theft ( bills, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) notices, etc.).

POSTED: Aug 24, 2017
Budget-Friendly Car Maintenance Tips for the Cold Weather

For drivers, the quickly approaching fall and winter seasons mean that freezing temperatures; inclement weather and salted streets will be sure to worsen driving conditions and cause vehicle wear and tear. To prepare your car for the cold weather, regular maintenance is an easy way to help to mitigate damage, improve safety and prevent expensive breakdowns in the future.

Starting early is key. Check out our tips below on how to keep your car in good working order without breaking the bank this winter!

1. Check Your Tire Pressure

Snow, ice and sand can cause roads to become dangerous so it’s especially important for drivers to make sure their tires are in good working condition before the winter season starts. This includes tire pressure, which can decrease quickly in cold temperatures. Driving on underinflated tires can cause premature wear and make your car handle less predictably. If you check your tire pressure and find that one or more of your tires are low on air, you can fill them at a gas station air pump for little to no cost.

2. Maintain Visibility

More than 23 percent of car accidents in the United States are caused by hazardous weather and poor visibility. As we enter the season of sleet and snow, drivers should strongly consider replacing worn out windshield wipers and topping off windshield wiper fluid as an easy and affordable ways to make sure they maintain optimal visibility on the road.

In addition, always be mindful of any chips (even small ones) in your windshield. If you spot one, have it repaired as soon as possible. If left unattended, sudden temperature changes (such as defrosting a freezing windshield) can cause these chips to become large cracks, which means you’ll have to make the expensive repair of replacing your entire windshield.

3. Check Antifreeze Levels

Antifreeze is the fluid found in your radiator that helps to keep water from freezing or boiling in regular and extreme temperatures. As temperatures dip below freezing, keeping your vehicle’s antifreeze levels at a sufficient level is an affordable but important step to maintaining your engine and preventing repairs that could cost thousands of dollars.

4. Change Your Oil

According to a recent study by the Car Care Council of the Be Car Care Aware campaign, 22 percent of vehicles have low or dirty engine oil. No matter the season, consistently changing your oil every few thousand miles is one of the most cost efficient ways to maintain your car.

Just a few hundred dollars could save you from costly engine breakdowns and repairs. Because unpredictable weather can derail weekend plans to get your oil changed during the winter, being proactive and getting it done early this fall can help you know your car is set for the season.

5. Check Your Battery

Car battery failure is one of the most common reasons a driver finds themselves stranded and it can be especially dangerous in the cold weather. To help prevent unwelcome disasters, have your battery tested by a mechanic to find out if it needs replacing. It is also a good idea to keep a booster pack or jumper cables in your car just in case your battery does die while you’re out and about.

POSTED: Aug 22, 2017
MCU's Tips for Saving Your First $1,000

If you’re having a difficult time building a nest egg, you’re definitely not alone. According to a recent survey conducted by GoBankingRates.com, a whopping 69 percent of Americans have reported having less than $1,000 in savings. More than half of those surveyed also reported that they would be unable to cover a $500 expense.

Breaking a paycheck-to-paycheck cycle can be difficult but it’s an important step in becoming financially secure and working towards long-term goals. Whether you’re new to managing your money or trying to break old habits, we’ve come up with some easy ways to start working towards saving your first $1,000. Check them out below!

1. Create a budget

A budget is a visual tool to help you manage your spending within your means so it’s easy to see how it’s the first step to creating spending plan that will allow you to start saving.

To start, keep track of your cash flow to help understand all of your costs and prioritize your spending. For example, once seeing your cash flow written down, you may be able to decide that while you need Wi-Fi, you can do without an expensive cable package. You’ll need to pay rent or your mortgage but can decide not to run your AC unit all summer or pay down debt before you can take a vacation. You may also prioritize exactly how much of your budget you would like to save.

Remember, not all expenses or sources of income occur within a single month. For example, your tax return may appear once a year, your car insurance bill may come due twice a year and homeowner association fees may only occur quarterly.

2. Cut back on small luxuries

If you’re working on a tight budget, making compromises on small luxuries can pack a big punch. These changes may include:

  • Packing lunch
  • Making coffee at home
  • Buying generic brand items
  • Canceling unnecessary magazine/newspaper subscriptions

3. Find a “side gig”

When cutting back isn’t enough, picking up a side gig is a great way to earn extra cash that can go straight into savings. Unlike a second job, a gig typically allows an individual to pick their own hours and work as little or as much as they want. This could include dog walking, house sitting or even joining a ride-sharing program. It’s popular too. According to Bankrate.com, 44 million Americans have taken on a gig to help get ahead. More than 35 percent of those surveyed reported earning more than an additional $500 a month!

4. Open a savings/share account that’s right for you

If you’re one of the more than 9 million people in the United States who don’t have a savings account, it’s time to open one. Having a savings account will not only give you a secure place to keep your savings but it will help you make your money work for you with interest. As an added benefit, account holders can set up direct deposit so a percentage of their paycheck goes directly into their account, helping them to set a pace for their savings without thinking about it.

However, not all savings products are created equal so it’s important to shop around for the account that works best for you. This means considering a credit union (who have share accounts), as they are known for having better interest rates and fewer penalties and fees.

POSTED: Aug 22, 2017
Four Ways Your Credit Card is Better than Cash

Move over, cash – there’s a new king in town. You already know that your credit card is a great option for moving through a checkout line quickly; online shopping and booking vacations, but some less obvious perks could have you leaving behind paper money for good. Check them out below!

1. Track Your Spending Habits

It can be very hard to keep track of how you’re spending your money when using cash. Holding onto receipts throughout the month can be difficult and putting together a comprehensive list of all purchases (including small ones), tedious. However, using your credit card regularly means your spending history will be detailed on one bill at the end of each month, making it easy to review purchases and gain insights into your spending habits. Even better, cardholders can view their bill in real-time using online banking. Having easy access to this information is the first step to identifying any problematic spending habits and to make changes that work for you.

2. Build Your Credit

Credit is important. A good credit score will help you get approved for lower interest rates on loans, rent an apartment and even receive better pricing on insurance. Thirty-five percent of your credit score is based on your payment history, which is good news for responsible credit card holders. Using your credit card on items you would normally pay for with cash and then paying your bill on time each month will help you create a strong payment history, building your credit score with the added benefit of not having to take on extra debt.

3. Have a Safety Net

Credit cards offer a variety of features that can protect you if things go wrong. For example, while very little can be done if cash is lost or stolen, cardholders can simply call their financial institution to report their card missing and have a new one provided to them in just a matter of days. And with zero liability protection, cardholders are protected from losing any money if they're victimized by fraud. Similarly, if a consumer use their card in a transaction that turns out to be a scam, they can alert their financial institution or credit card company to place a stop on a payment.

4. Enjoy Rewards

You’re already spending your money on everyday items like groceries, utilities and gas. Why not earn perks for your purchases? While the benefits will vary, many credit cards will offer programs that may reward you for your spending habits. These rewards may include cashback, air miles and merchant discounts. Cash can’t do that for you!

POSTED: Aug 01, 2017
Finance 101: MCU’s Financial Tips for College Students

Being a college student is an exciting time filled with new experiences, curiosity and higher learning (and pizza, of course). It’s also the first time that many young people will find themselves independently taking on financial responsibilities. And while being a “broke college student” is an experience shared by many, it’s still extremely stressful.

Luckily, there are some easy steps to help students take control of their finances now and develop healthy money management habits that will last a lifetime. Check them out below!

1. Create a Budget

No matter the amount of money you’re working with, a budget will help keep your spending within your means.

With any spending plan, some compromises and sacrifices will have to be made. Students will have to set (and stick to) realistic limits on activities such as eating out, entertainment and shopping. Because college students are typically on tight budgets, it’s also important to recognize that seemingly small expenses can add up fast. For instance, a cup of gourmet coffee every day can eat up nearly $20 every week.

Remember to also make considerations for expenses (like a car insurance bill) that will only occur once or twice throughout the year as well. Check out MCU’s Tips for Creating an Effective Spending Plan for more information.

2. Stay Smart About Credit

Credit is important. A good credit score will help you get approved for lower interest rates on loans, rent an apartment and even receive better pricing on insurance.

College is a great time to take steps toward building credit. However, if students aren’t careful, they can easily get carried away, open several credit cards with enticing offers and find themselves in over their heads before they know it. This mistake won’t just damage your credit score for years to come but will immediately result in late fees and higher interest rates, which can add up quickly and dig students into a financial hole.

College students should stick to opening a student credit card with a modest limit and competitive rate that they can use sparingly, setting good habits for the future as they slowly but surely raise their credit score.

3. Keep an Eye out for Identity Theft

According to a Javelin Strategy and Research report, 22 percent of students in 2014 were denied credit or contacted by a debt collector due to identity theft and fraud. The study additionally found that compared to older age groups, 18-to 24-year-olds take nearly twice as long to detect identity theft, potentially making the extent of the fraud against them more significant.

To help avoid identity theft, college students should take steps to keep their personal information safe. This includes properly disposing of sensitive documents like bank statements and avoiding free standing ATMs, which are known to be easily compromised.

Students should also carefully review their account and credit card statements each month. It may be habit to simply skim to the bottom of your statement, find your balance, make a payment and then not give your bill a second thought. However, while your balance may have seemed about right, it’s important to know that fraud is often perpetrated in small amounts. Taking the time to go through your statement line by line is the best way to find any suspicious activity.

In addition to monthly statements, college students should review their credit score every 12 months. It’s easy and free! Like all consumers, students are privy to a free credit report each year, which can be accessed through any one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

4. Set up Alerts

Making payments on time and managing your accounts periodically will not only improve your credit score, but will help you avoid unnecessary fees and penalties. However, balancing classes and newfound responsibilities can make it tough for college students to stay on top of billings cycles and due dates. To stay organized, take advantage of text and email alerts to set up reminders.

5. Get Creative with Textbooks

Textbooks can be a major expense for students, especially if they purchase new copies at the campus bookstore. To help minimize this cost, students can look to buy used copies online, rent their books or even purchase the electronic versions. These alternatives may save hundreds of dollars every semester.

If you do choose to go the route of buying your textbooks, consider selling them at the end of your semester. Many college bookstores have buyback programs that can assist with this or students can look to online resources.

6. Take Advantage of Student Perks

Being a student can come with some serious money-saving perks. Your student ID may get you discounts at retailers, while the campus fitness center can save you the cost of a gym membership and a meal plan is often times cheaper than eating out.

Your school may also offer money-saving amenities. Keep an eye out for resources like free tutoring and check the student activities calendar for inexpensive student events, including concerts and festivals, which are both fun and budget-friendly!

POSTED: Jul 27, 2017
When Buying Your Leased Car is the Right Move

With lower monthly payments and the prospect of a new car every few years, it’s no wonder why vehicle leasing continues to be a popular option. However, the cycle of endless payments and fees, along with the restrictions and lack of equity that come with leasing, can leave many drivers frustrated.

If you’re a current leaser looking to become an owner, a buyout on your current lease can be a great way to do just that. It provides you the ownership you are looking for with the added benefits of already knowing the ins and outs of your car, including its accident and maintenance history.

Like any large purchase, potential buyers should consider important factors before signing on the dotted line. These considerations may include:

1. The Car’s Current Value

While you may love your current car, it’s always important to make a purchase with your head, and not your heart. Your goal as a leaser looking to buy your car should be to pay less than or near the private-party price. This means you’ll need to take time to do research.

To start, check for the residual price (also known as a buyout amount) on your lease agreement. This is the amount that the dealership will value your vehicle at the end of your lease. If you don't have your contract handy, you may be able to find this information on an online account you may have with the dealership.

Once you know your residual amount, you’ll need to know the value your car’s specific make and model. Taking the time to compare reputable resources, including TRUECar and Kelly Blue Book can help you gather as much information as possible and confidently make a decision about your purchase.

2. Condition and Maintenance

Most vehicles only have bumper-to-bumper warranties for three years, which means potential buyers should consider the condition of their leased car carefully before making the decision to buy. This may include:

  • Car maintenance
  • Tires
  • Mileage

You may find it beneficial to buy your car if it does have some wear and tear. While these damages may be small and even unnoticeable to a driver throughout your day-to-day life, they can become extremely expensive when the lease ends and the car is returned.

The good news? As a leaser, you do have significant advantages when it comes to evaluating your current car’s condition, as you already know the history of the vehicle’s maintenance history and how it’s been cared for. You can also take advantage of having it checked out for mechanical problems before its warranty expires. If anything does need to be fixed or maintained, you can arrange for the repairs of covered items at little or no cost.

All in all, if your car is in good overall condition and won't cost that much to keep up over the long haul, leasers can feel confident that their car would be a good purchase.

3. Your Budget

Like with any major purchases, you’ll need to figure out if buying the car will fit within the your budget. Unless you plan to pay for the car outright, the expenses may include:

  • A down payment
  • Monthly payments (with interest) to an auto loan
  • Insurance
  • General maintenance that will come with owning an older car

Loan calculator tools and other resources available online may be helpful in figuring out what expense may work with your monthly budget.

Finally, keep in mind that an important factor in determining the monthly expense of owning your car will be where you choose to finance it. The best financing deals are rarely found at auto dealerships. Shopping around for the most competitive auto loan and lowest interest rates may make all the difference when it comes to figuring out if your car can fit comfortably in your budget.

POSTED: Jul 17, 2017
An MCU Scam Roundup – Summer 2017

While many consumers are taking action to protect their personal information, identity theft is still affecting Americans in alarming numbers. According to the Identity Theft and Scam Prevention Services, approximately 15 million United States residents have their identities used fraudulently each year with financial losses totaling upwards of $50 billion.

On a case-by-case basis, that means approximately 7% of all adults have their identities misused with each instance resulting in approximately $3,500 in losses.

Criminals are defrauding many victims by combining new technology with old tricks to gain access to their money and personal information. Being informed is the first step to keeping your money and personal information safe. Check out these recent scams reported by the Better Business Bureau that are currently plaguing hardworking people everywhere.

1. “You're a winner!” Don’t take the bait with giveaway scams.

Popups scams aren’t new but identity thieves have learned to become even more convincing to those surfing the web. Most recently, consumers have reported browsing online when receiving a popup that reads, “Congratulations, you’re today’s lucky visitor.” The prize has been reported as $1,000 gift card, and you can select from a list of famous stores. Consumers are also told they need to act fast, as they only have two minutes to claim their prize.

The website is convincingly designed to look like the popular social media platform Facebook, including the site’s colors, font, and blue navigation bar. The scam becomes increasingly convincing to many as scammers use a technology to insert the model of phone you are using to browse online. For example, the target may be identified as a “loyal Apple customer.”

According to the Better Business Bureau, consumers can spot a giveaway scam several ways:

  • Legitimate businesses do not ask for credit card numbers or banking information for coupons or giveaways. If they do ask for personal information, like an address or email, be sure there's a link to their privacy policy.
  • When in doubt, do a quick web search. If the giveaway is a scam, this is likely to reveal an alert or bring you to the organization's real website, where they may have posted further information.
  • Watch out for a reward that's too good to be true. Businesses typically give out small discounts to entice customers. If the offer seems too good to be true (a $100 voucher or 50% discount) it may be a scam.
  • Look for a mismatched subject line and email body. Many of these scams have an email subject line promising one thing, but the content of the email is something completely different.

2. Avoid Bogus Connection Requests on LinkedIn.

If you have a LinkedIn account, it’s important to keep an eye out for suspicious users claiming to be recruiters with promising job offers. LinkedIn users have reported receiving messages from seemingly legitimate accounts asking them to apply for a job.

The request will look convincing enough for users to follow the steps needed to apply. In some cases, applicants will then be asked to upload resume and provide personal information, which may range from their mailing address to Social Security/Social Insurance number. In other instances, users will be informed that they have been "hired" for the job and must pay upfront for training and others expenses.

No matter the details of the scam, the job never materializes. The scammer takes the money or information and disappears.

According to the Better Business Bureau, tips for dealing with job scams on LinkedIn include:

  • Set your LinkedIn privacy settings. You can limit which LinkedIn users can send you messages or connection requests. Go here to make adjustments.
  • Don't accept every request you get. Check out the user's profile for completeness and correct grammar. Just because you have several connections in common, does not mean they are real. Scammers frequently create a large network to look more legitimate.
  • Ask to talk on the phone. If a recruiter contacts you through email, ask to speak by phone. Scammers will try to dodge this with excuses, such as being out the country.

3. Watch Out for "Free Wi-Fi" Scams.

For many traveling this summer, free Wi-Fi hotspots will be a much appreciated resource found in locations such as coffee shops and hotel lobbies. However, scammers have been known to use fake Wi-Fi hotspots to steal personal information and/or gain access to your device and it’s very important to double check the network before connecting your laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

These hotspots may be labeled something generic like "Free Public Wi-Fi" but they may be hazard to both your device and your personal information. In some instances, after a user connects, they are prompted to enter credit card information. Of course, this info is shared with the scammer.

In other scenarios, a hacker inserts him or herself between your computer and the Wi-Fi connection. Everything you do online – such as make a purchase or log into an account – is now transmitted through the scammer's computer. This means they can now access any passwords, credit card information, and other data you've entered online.

According to the Better Business Bureau, consumers can stay safe on public Wi-Fi connections in many ways, including:

  • Legitimate businesses do not ask for credit card numbers or banking information for coupons or giveaways. If they do ask for personal information, like an address or email, be sure there's a link to their privacy policy.
  • Be sure you are using the correct Wi-Fi connection: If you are in a place that offers free Wi-Fi, verify the name of the connection before joining. Scammers often set up fake hotspots next to real ones.
  • Be careful how you use public Wi-Fi: When using a hotspot to log into an account or make a purchase, be sure the site is fully encrypted (Use "https").
  • Consider using a VPN: If you regularly access public Wi-Fi, use a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs encrypt traffic between your computer and the Internet, even on unsecured networks.
  • Always use antivirus software and a firewall. Protect your computer (and some cell phones) by using anti-virus software and a firewall from a reputable company.
  • Use good password sense: Protect yourself from hacking by using strong passwords and creating a different password for each account.
POSTED: Jun 26, 2017
Home Improvement Projects to Tackle this Summer

When done properly, do-it-yourself projects are a great way for homeowners to maintain their property, prevent expensive future repairs, increase their home’s resale value and even find opportunities for family bonding as you take on new challenges. Even better, a little can go a long way when it comes to your home and with the warm weather and long days, summer is the perfect time to get started. Check out our suggestions on where to get started below!

1. Landscaping and Outdoor Maitenance

You don’t need to be a professional to make your yard look like it was done by one. In addition to a well-trimmed lawn, simple projects such as weeding, cleaning and maintaining walkways and planting flowerbeds may require a bit of elbow grease and patience but will go a long way in creating an oasis for the summer.

Similarly, taking time to maintain a patio and deck area will add to the over appeal of any outdoor area. This may include power washing stone patios or taking a weekend to strip to repaint wooden decks. Outdoor furniture can also take a hit due to the elements and can benefit from a thorough cleaning, upkeep, and even replacement after every few years.

These projects can go a long way in sprucing up your home’s curb appeal, which may make it more attractive to potential homebuyers.

2. Paint

Never underestimate what a new coat of paint can do for a room. For just the cost of paint and rollers, along with a day or two’s worth of work, homeowners can update and brighten a room while also taking off years’ worth of buildup and staining at the same time. Homeowners can also get creative and try new trends such as bold accent ceilings to stay up-to-date with current styles.

It is also important to keep up with the exterior paint on a house. No matter how old your home is or how long you’ve lived in it, fresh paint will make your home look like new. A great quality paint job will last for years, so it means less overall upkeep on your exterior and savings over having to have it painted more often.

3. Pay Attention to Details

Small do-it-yourself decorating projects will allow you to make affordable changes that can update any room with a fresh new look. This may include rearranging the furniture, and replacing pillows and other worn-looking accents with more with up-to-date styles. Kitchen and bathrooms can also benefit from easy upgrades homeowners can take on without the cost of a contractor. These small renovations may include replacing cabinet handles, faucets and showerheads.

4. Insulate Pipes

Pipe insulation is the process of wrapping your pipes in a material such as fiberglass in order to keep them from freezing in the cold weather. While your mind may be far away from the winter weather, summer is a great time to take on this project. You may even thank yourself later – taking the time to insulate your pipes will help prevent expensive issues in the future, including water damage, deterioration, mold and mildew.

5. Learn Basic Furnace Maintenance

By learning how to do basic furnace maintenance tasks this summer, you can avoid splurging on professional help. These tasks may only take a few hours out of your weekend but they’ll go a long way in extending the overall life expectancy of your gas or propane-fueled furnace, while also increasing the efficiency of your unit. This means homeowners can look forward to a worry-free winter with lower energy bills are on the horizon.

POSTED: Jun 19, 2017
MCU’s Five Things to Know about HELOCs

As a homeowner, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) is a convenient financial lending product that allows you to borrow against your home’s equity to manage your expenses as needed. Check out our five things to know below!

1. How it Works. The equity in your home is the difference between the value of the property and the amount owed on your mortgage. A HELOC, which is known as “revolving debt”, allows homeowners to borrow against this equity in various amounts over time as needed. Once you pay back what you’ve borrowed, that amount is made available again.

For example, a homeowner may be approved for a $40,000 line of credit, which will remain open for 10 years. During that time, they may borrow $10,000 to take on home improvement projects, which would leave them an additional $30,000 to borrow. However, once they’ve repaid the $10,000, they will have full access to the originally approved amount of $40,000. The homeowner may use their line of credit as many times they want while their HELOC remains open.

2. Take Advantage of Competitive Rates. A HELOC is especially useful to homeowners because the interest rate tends to be much more competitive than the rates on credit cards and personal loans. This may save borrowers hundreds or even thousands of dollars throughout the lifespan of their HELOC.

However, borrowers shouldn’t fixate solely on the interest rate. Shopping around to get an idea of the terms and fees offered by different lenders will help you be sure that they’re getting the best deal possible.

3. Your Credit Score Matters. Like all lending products, the interest rate on a HELOC will depend on your credit-worthiness. Borrowers with high credit scores (700 and above) can expect to be offered the best rates and those with lower scores can expect to pay more.

Before applying for a HELOC, check your credit report. This will give you the opportunity to review your score and take actions to correct any mistakes that may be affecting it.

4. Know Your Limit. While the percentage will vary, many financial institutions will offer you a HELOC amounting to about 85% of the equity in a borrower’s home. Of course, just because you could be approved for that amount, a borrower should always stick to a loan or line of credit that they are confident about comfortably paying back. If a homeowner does default on a HELOC, they risk losing their home to a foreclosure.

5. Selling Your Home? While you don’t have to pay off your HELOC before listing your home, you’ll be expected to do so quickly once you’ve sold it. The easiest way to take care of the balance is to pay it out of the sale proceeds at the time of closing in addition to the remaining balance on your mortgage. However, homeowners can run into trouble if their homes have insufficient equity to cover these expenses.

POSTED: Jun 14, 2017
Six Budget-Friendly Activities for Your Summer in NYC

Having a little fun in the Big Apple without breaking the bank! Whether you’re a native to the five boroughs or just visiting for a day, we came up with some great activities that’ll make you and your budget happy.

Check them out here!

Take Day trip to Governor’s Island: Visit this small island off the tip of lower Manhattan to walk, bike, learn up on its Revolutionary War history, lounge in a Hammock or enjoy a picnic.
Price: Free if you take the Manhattan ferry at 10am, 11am, or 11:30am on Saturdays and Sundays, or the 11am or 11:30am from Brooklyn’s Pier 6. Otherwise it’s a $2 round-trip ferry fare.

Check out the Socrates Sculpture Park: The Socrates Sculpture Park hosts art exhibits imaginative enough to make you feel like you’re walking through a dream. The park is open and free to the public year round and sits atop nearly five acres of landfill in Astoria, Queens, creating a great urban feel to the waterfront landscape while also allowing guests to enjoy nature. The park boasts more than 90 varieties of trees and plant life blanket the park, from birch trees to daffodils.
Price: Free!

Kayak at the Downtown Boathouse: Kayaks are available for public use in the Hudson River from May through October. Participants are only allowed about 20 minutes of paddle time but then can enjoy all that Riverside Park has to offer afterwards!
Price:

Take a midweek excursion to the Bronx Zoo: While General Admission to the Bronx Zoo is typically $20.00 for an adult and $13.00 for a child, admission is free on Wednesdays! However, it’s important to note that special exhibits – like the Butterfly Garden, Congo Gorilla Forest and JungleWorld -- are not included.
Price: Free!

Enjoy Movie Night in a Park: From family friendly animated films to classic comedies and foreign flicks, outdoor movie nights pop up all across the city during the summer months. To plan a free movie night with friends and family, visit nycgovparks.org .
Price: Free!

Ride the Staten Island Ferry: Leaving every 15 or 30 minutes from lower Manhattan, the Staten Island Ferry is an easy and free way to get impressive views of the Manhattan skyline.
Price: Free!

POSTED: Jun 13, 2017
MCU’s Tips for Using Your Credit Card When Traveling

Whether you’re traveling for business or taking a much needed vacation, using your credit card is an easy and convenient way to cover your expenses when you’re on the road. Before leaving home, check out our credit card tips for traveling below!

1. Let us know you’re traveling.* If you’re traveling, your card activity will certainly look unusual and may result in a hold being placed on your account for security purposes. Letting us know your travel plans will help us keep your card active and your trip running smoothly.

2. Check your card’s expiration date.* An expired credit card won’t be any help on your trip. Double check your expiration dates before you leave home, especially if you’ll be traveling for an extended period. MCU will send members a new credit card approximately two weeks before the current one expires. However, if you plan to be away during that time you can call to request a new card ahead of schedule.

3. Set up NYMCU Online and Mobile Banking. Having access to your accounts and credit card information can prove to be extremely helpful when traveling, especially if you need to make a payment or check your balance. Members can sign up for NYMCU Online Banking at nymcu.org or download the MCU Mobile Banking App to their iPhone or Android smartphone.

4. Spend Like a Local. When charging purchases abroad, you may have the option of paying in U.S. dollars instead of local currency. This is often referred to as “dynamic currency conversion.” While it may be easier to keep track of costs when choosing to pay in U.S. currency, travelers will usually receive a better exchange rate and save money by opting to initially pay with local currency.

5. Report a lost or stolen card ASAP. Mistakes happen. If you lose or misplace your credit card, contact us to put a stop on it immediately and prevent it from being used by someone else. A replacement card can also be arranged. To contact MCU regarding a lost or stolen credit card, call (800) 449-7728.

*To contact MCU, call (212) 693-4900.

POSTED: Apr 21, 2017
MCU’s Summer Energy Saving Tips

It’s no secret that combating the seasonal heat can be expensive. In fact, according to the Energy Information Administration, approximately 42% of all home energy costs are directly related to heating and cooling. As the summer months are quickly approaching, New Yorkers may be excited for the longer days, barbeques and trips to the beach but their understandably less excited for the much anticipated bump in their energy bills. Luckily, small changes can make a big difference when it comes to staying cool and sticking to a budget this summer. Check out our tips below!

Mind your lights

It’s easy to forget that your household lights can be a source of heat in your home. By turning off unnecessary lights, you’ll help to mitigate the heat in your home on a warm day. It is also important to note that while, energy bills tend to increase in the summer, making a simple change such as replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) and light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs can help to manage the amount of electricity used within the household.

Use your fan

Running a ceiling fan can help make a room feel 3 to 4 degrees cooler. While that may not seem like much relief from the summer heat, it can help you cut back on your energy-eating air conditioning system by working to circulate the cooler air.

Air seal and insulate your home

Noticed a draft lately? Air that leaks through your home's envelopes - the outer walls, windows, doors, and other openings – allows for cool air to easily escape, which wastes a lot of energy and increases your utility costs. Well insulated homes can help keep cool air sealed in your home and make a real difference on your utility bills. To get started, cover up any openings under doors, around windows and close the fireplace damper when not in use, which is the same as an open window.

Invest in a programmable thermostat

According to the U. S Department of Energy, lowering the thermostat 10-15 degrees while at work, or away from your home can make a significant impact on your energy bill – reducing it by nearly 10 percent!

A programmable thermostat can help you easily get into this money-saving practice by automatically adjusting the temperature of your home based on your work and sleep habits. It can also greatly improve your general comfort levels by already beginning to bring the temperature back down before you return home or wake up.

Move furniture away from vents

If you have central air, you may want to check the placement of your furniture. You may not realize it but large furniture pieces or area rugs throughout your home may be blocking air vents, obstructing air flow and causing you to be setting your air conditioning to a higher setting than actually needed.

POSTED: Apr 20, 2017
MCU Car Buying Tips

Summer is the season of go, go, go. It’s no surprise that it is also the time of year many find themselves in the market for a car that will get them on the way to their next adventure (or just up the road for groceries). As exciting as buying a new car can be, prospective buyers should proceed with caution. Cars are an expensive investment and it’s easy to become attached to a make and model that could later leave you feeling in over your head financially. Luckily, using a few simple guidelines, you can confidently get on the road with the right vehicle at a great price!

1. Set a budget

Before you begin seriously shopping for a new vehicle, setting a budget is an important first step to saving both time, resources and even disappointment during your shopping experience. To ensure you’re making the best financial decision, a good rule of thumb is to keep the cost of all of your cars at or below 25 percent of your total monthly household income. It’s important to remember the annual expense of a car isn’t simply limited to monthly loan payments, but also fuel and car insurance.

2. Consider new, used and pre-owned vehicles

Purchasing a used or pre-owned vehicle may mean getting the most for your money. However, these cars often also come with higher interest rates when financed and shorter warranty periods. The car’s full history, including accidents and repairs, may also be limited. On the other hand, purchasing a new car on the same budget may mean getting a more basic model with less features but you’ll also have a full warranty, pay a lower interest rate, and in some cases have access to free maintenance and roadside assistance.

3. Do your homework

Whether you’ve decided on a used or new car, research plays a critical role in getting the best possible deal for your purchase. A quick internet search of the make and model you are interested in will help you to understand the general weaknesses of any car type, as well as typical repair costs and reasonable price points.

If you are specifically looking to purchase a pre-owned vehicle, the history of these cars can also be researched easily with its vehicle identification number (VIN). This can be done with a Carfax Report. It’s also important to ask the dealer or private seller questions about the car’s history. These can include:

• Are there any dealer documentary fees or other dealer specific fees that I should know about before I begin my negotiation?
• Does the car have any recalls?
• Is the car under warranty?
• How many miles are on it?

4. Shop for the best deal

Many potential car buyers often fall in love with a car and feel the need to make an offer immediately, for fear of losing their purchase to another buyer. Always avoid shopping with your emotions. Taking your time to shop and compare prices is the only way to know for sure that you are getting the best deal possible. Luckily, digital tools and shopping platforms can help with your process. These tools include MCU’s Car Buying Service, powered by TRUECar, which can help shoppers research thousands of new and used vehicles, see what others have paid and enjoy guaranteed pricing.

Shopping around for your financing options is also an important step in the car buying process. In fact, many individuals make the mistake of financing their car through a dealership, which may seem convenient but could prove to be more expensive than alternative options.


When the time comes to making a decision about financing your vehicle, remember MCU is there to help! We offer:

• Up to 125% financing available
• Low interest rates
• Flexible terms

Whether you choose a new or just new-to-you car, visit nymcu.org today to learn more about how an MCU Auto Loan can help get you on the road!

POSTED: Apr 04, 2017
MCU’s Tips for Creating an Effective Spending Plan

If you’re struggling to keep track of how you’re spending, a spending plan or budget will help you to plan and stay vigilant of your finances. By creating a breakdown of spending, income and debts, you’ll be able to better identify wasteful spending, adapt quickly to a financial emergencies and even achieve new financial goals.

1. Know Your Cash Flow

A budget is a tool to help you manage your spending within your means so it’s easy to see how the first step to developing an effective spending plan is to know both your income and expenses. Remember, not all expenses or sources of income occur within a single month. For example, your tax return and your car insurance bill may only appear once a year and home owner association fees may only occur quarterly.

To get the best idea of your cash flow, keep track and make a list of all of your earnings and spending for approximately 2-3 months. Be sure to record every purchase, no matter how small. Remember, a daily cup of gourmet coffee may not seem like much but the expense will add up! Known expenses and sources of income that occur outside of that time frame should be factored and planned for as well.

Creating a visual of your cash flow will not only help you determine how well you are managing your money, but will also aid you in determining how you can make changes to your spending habits.

2. Identify Your Financial Priorities

For most consumers, making choices about where to allocate funds is a necessary part of budgeting. This requires being able to differentiate between your wants and needs.

For example, once seeing your cash flow written down, you may be able to decide that you while you need wifi, you can do without an expensive cable package. You’ll need to pay rent or your mortgage but can decide not to run your AC unit all summer or pay down debt before you can take a vacation. You may also prioritize exactly how much of your budget you would like to save.

Prioritizing these expenses will help you to make the tough choices that will help you live within your means.

3. Set Goals

It’s difficult to change your spending habits and lifestyle without a goal to work towards. Whether, you’re working to pay off debt or reach a financial milestone, setting an objective for you budget will play an important role in how successfully you stick to it. In addition to staying committed to your budget, a long or short-term goal will also help you to focus your actions, research and resources.

4. Expect the Unexpected

Saving is a problem for many Americans. In fact, nearly 40 percent of US workers have reported having less than $1,000 in savings to cover an emergency situation. No matter what your debt situation is, you should also begin saving for a rainy day. Before you work toward your financial goals, it’s important to have a safety net in place. A general rule of thumb is to set aside 3 to 6 months' worth of living expenses for an emergency fund in case of job loss, illness or an unexpected bill. While saving for a rainy day make mean a delay in achieving other financial goals, these savings will ensure that your financial situation will be secure even during a difficult time.

POSTED: Mar 31, 2017
The Four Financial Attitudes to Avoid

Financial insecurity is a growing problem faced by many Americans. In fact, nearly 40 percent of US workers have reported having less than $1,000 in savings and the average household debt is now more than $16,000.

In some instances, people may struggle to pay for unexpected expenses such as a medical emergency, job loss or divorce. Others may have been tempted by payday lending loans, uncontrolled use of credit cards or convenient payment plans, which all contributed to a gradual accumulation of debt.

As the old saying goes, attitude is everything. No matter what your situation is or your goals are, avoiding troublesome financial attitudes and habits can go a long way. Check them out below!

1. Spending Too Much
Overspending is one of the fastest and most common ways an individual can find themselves in financial trouble. Overspenders often have a hard time keeping track of where their money goes and spending money has often become a form of fun and recreation. They also have a hard time differentiating between wants and needs and thrive on immediate gratification.

How to Avoid It: If you’re an overspender, you probably have a difficult time visualizing how much money is going out, compared to your income. To help create a visual of your cash flow, it helps to try writing down a budget and making a list of your purchases. After setting a budget, using cash can be helpful to avoid wasteful or thoughtless purchases. Once the allocated funds are gone, you’ll have to wait until the next pay cycle to make another purchase. It may be tough, but it’ll help reign in spending.

2. Saving Too Little
It can be hard for individuals to realize they are saving too little. While they may recognize that there is no “cushion” in their savings to cover an emergency expense, many may feel like they can rely on their 401(k) if needed. However, unfortunately, the funds in a 401(k) are unavailable to help in an emergency situation without incurring penalties and fees.

How to Avoid it: To help build savings, always make it a practice to “pay yourself first”. Direct depositing a percentage of every paycheck into a separate account set-aside account for long term savings that can also cover unexpected expenses is a great way to start.

3. Carrying Too Much Debt
Individuals who carry too much debt tend to focus the cost of a minimum payment, or only consider their individual installments, opposed to the overall expense. They may also become fixated on deals that promise deferred payments or special deals without paying attention to the overall expense. Those carrying debt will often take actions to consolidate debt to maintain a standard of living.

How to Avoid it: If an individual finds themselves carrying too much debt, they can get back on track by focusing on the overall expense of a purchase including interest. If the overall expense is figured within the individual’s budget, it may become more clear that it is actually unaffordable. They must also not be easily taken by sales that appear to offer “great deals” and take time to read the fine print.

It is also important to note that while these practices can help change current attitudes towards debt, the only way to truly be free of debt is to begin paying it off. A spending plan can help an individual begin the process of allocating the needed funds for monthly debts.

4. Caring Too Little About the Future
Many people are surprised when their budget collapses under the strain of accumulated debt. They may have failed to pay attention to their spending, ignored bills and disregarded the cost of interest and fees. Because they’ve failed to plan ahead, these individuals are often caught off guard when they find themselves in financial emergencies and will delay their ability to reach financial milestones, such as buying a home. Sometimes, these individuals also believe that if there were to find themselves in financial trouble, a family member or friend will help them out.

How to Avoid it: While this attitude can be found in anybody, it is common among adult children still living with their parents, as they often have both and income and relatively minimal expenses. This combination can be make it difficult to focus on properly managing money. If you find yourself struggling to focus on your financial future, setting both long and short-term goals is an effective motivator to begin planning and saving.

POSTED: Mar 30, 2017
Go Green, Save Green This Spring

This year, Earth Day is April 22nd and going green is easier than ever with MCU’s free digital banking tools. Signing up won’t just help the environment but also saves our members time, money and hassle. Check them out below!

NYMCU Online Banking: Safely and securely manage your MCU account. With NYMCU Online Banking, members can view account balances, transfer funds between accounts, signup for account alerts and much more.

NYMCU Mobile Banking: The NYMCU Mobile Banking App gives members the freedom to manage accounts, transfer funds, pay bills and find the nearest MCU ATM or branch locations anytime, anywhere. The NYMCU Mobile Banking app is compatible with iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android Tablets.

MCU BillPay: Avoid mailing costs and late fees by paying bills on an ad hoc or prescheduled basis. Members can also save time by paying friends and family quickly and securely with our recent person-to-person ePayments feature.

MCU eStatements: Never lose track of your statements again. eStatments not only notify you that a new statement has arrive each month via email, but gives our members access to up to 24 months’ worth of statements.

To learn more about these great paperless options and to enroll in MCU Online Banking, visit nymcu.org or download the NYMCU Mobile Banking App today!

POSTED: Mar 21, 2017
MCU’s Tips to Avoiding Common Home Buying Mistakes

For many, buying a home is more than a financial milestone, it’s the realization of a lifelong dream. As, the housing market continues to become increasingly competitive, potential homebuyers may be feeling the pressure in order to get in on a fair deal while they still can.

However, while the timing may be right to still get in on a great deal, the home-buying process can be a confusing one and common mistakes could end up costing you time and money. To get started and to make sure that your home-buying experience is as seamless as possible, check out some common mistakes how to avoid them below!

Mistake: Not knowing your credit score. Many potential homebuyers don’t know their credit scores or what their scores mean. In some cases, potential homebuyers may jump into the home-buying process without knowing that their credit score is too poor for them to obtain a mortgage or will only help them to qualify for a high-interest loan. In other instances, individuals may just assume they have poor credit and do not realize their credit is good enough for them to obtain a mortgage at a good rate.

Tip: According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, individuals should check their credit reports once every 12 months. This will not only let you know whether or not you’re ready to buy a home but will also let you check for mistakes that may hurt your score and affect your ability to get a loan. The only authorized site source under federal law that provides free credit reports is AnnualCreditReport.com.

Educational classes (such as MCU’s First-Time Homebuyers Seminar Series) are also a great way to better understand how your score affects you in the home-buying process. It will will also provide you with information on how you can begin to improve your credit and accelerate your home-buying process.

Mistake: Assuming your down payment is the only upfront cost associated with buying a home. There are many fees and closing costs that need to be paid along with the down payment.

Tip: Know your budget when shopping for your home, and make sure to include additional costs when budgeting for your home purchase. Taxes and fees like escrow, real estate taxes and attorneys fees must be paid during the purchase (or closing) of a real estate property.

To help curb these expenses, shop around when looking for your mortgage. In some instances, financial institutions will waive some closing costs and fees to help keep your initial payment low.

Mistake: Not knowing about all costs of home ownership in the neighborhood(s) where you are looking to buy. The cost of your home is more than just the price of your house.

Tip: Do research and find out the cost of property taxes, Homeowners Association Fee, Plan Unit development fees, homeowner’s insurance, and other costs that will affect how much you can actually afford.

Mistake: Underestimating the length of the mortgage process. The process usually takes 30-45 days to close after receiving necessary documentation, not 30-45 days from the initial contact with the loan officer. Homebuyers who don’t give themselves enough time may find their process is delayed.

Tip: Plan effectively. Know that the process is just that, a process. Understand that your financial activity, such as incurring a large amount of debt, during this time period can affect your credit, which can affect your capacity to be a homeowner in the lender’s eyes.

To help the home-buying process go smoothing, buyers are encouraged to get a mortgage preapproval from a lender. This is a formal estimation of how much you, as a potential homebuyer, are qualified to borrow. This preapproval, which will come in the form of a letter, can speed up the home-buying process by helping you to pinpoint your price range, secure a real estate agent, narrow down potential neighborhoods and motivate sellers.

Mistake: Choosing to delay the home buying process in anticipation of lower interest rates. While rates have increased slightly, buying a home is still financially attainable. However, experts agree that the Federal Reserve can be expected to raise rates further and waiting years or even just months could put you at risk of an even higher mortgage interest rate.

Tip: Start today! By locking in an interest rate before they inch up again, you could save yourself hundreds of dollars a month!

POSTED: Mar 17, 2017
An MCU Scam Roundup - Spring 2017

Consumers are getting smarter about fraud, but unfortunately thieves are too. According to a recent study released by Javelin Strategy & Research, found that $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016, compared with $15.3 billion and 13.1 million victims a year earlier. Additionally, In the past six years, identity thieves have stolen over $107 billion.

Criminals are defrauding many victims by combining new technology with old tricks to gain access to their money and personal information. Being informed is the first step to keeping your money and personal information safe. Check out these recent scams reported by the Better Business Bureau that are currently plaguing hardworking people everywhere.

1. The “You’ve Reached Your Storage Limit” Phishing Scam

This scam looks like just another email message from your company’s IT department. It’s so mundane or routine, these messages are easy to click on without thinking. However, a new scam should have you checking your email twice.

The reported version of this scam reads: “[name]@[company.com] update required” and appears to come from info@webmaster.com. According to the message, your email has reached the storage limit, and “you will be blocked from sending and receiving messages.” The message instructs you to click a link to validate your account and add storage. In a clever move, the scammers even made the link look like your email address. But in the version Better Business Bureau received, the link really points to a website with an overseas domain name.

Clicking the link takes you to a login form that asks you to enter your email address and password. But don’t believe it or fill it out! The form is a fraud and a phishing scam. It’s really a way to steal your email password, which opens you up to identify theft.

No matter what format it comes in, the Better Business Bureau recommends these tips to identify a phishing scam:

• Be wary of unexpected emails that contain links or attachments. Do not click on links or open files in unfamiliar emails.

• Don't believe what you see. Just because an email looks real, doesn't mean it is. Scammers can fake anything from a company logo to the "Sent" email address.

• Check your company's IT department or internet service provider. If something sounds suspicious, confirm it first. Contact them directly from a number you know is accurate. DON'T click on any links in the message you suspect is a scam.

• Be cautious of generic emails. Scammers try to cast a wide net by including little or no specific information in their fake emails. Always be wary of messages that don't contain your name, last digits of your account number, or other personalizing information. Pay attention to the ways in which your IT department normally addresses concerns and be cautious of any new method.

•Use unique passwords: Use different passwords for each account you create. This is the simple way to reduce your risk if one password falls into the hands of scammers.

2. Beware of Video Game Account Scams

Gaming is a multibillion dollar industry but it isn’t immune to scammers. If you’re a gamer currently stuck on certain level, buying an account from another player may seem like a fast, easy way to move forward in a game. However, not only is this practice forbidden by most game manufacturers, it leaves you vulnerable to scammers.

Scammers will often log into message boards and post they have an account to sell. Once they find a buyer, the transaction seems easy. The victim will pay the seller, and in exchange, the scammer provides the account information.

It all seems legitimate but these transactions often don’t go as planned when the seller/scammer provides incomplete or fake account details. Before the buyer notices, the scammer files a support ticket with the game manufacturer to change the account details. Other times, the scammer sells the account to multiple players and provides them all with the correct account information. However, when multiple users attempt to change the credentials at the same time, the manufacture realizes the account has been compromised and shuts it down.

While this practice is already forbidden among gaming companies, gamers can use these additional practices to keep their keep their online game account secure:

• Don’t share account information with others. Choose a secure password and don’t share your account information with anyone, including friends.

• Don’t pay users to play for you: Ignore offers from users who play for pay, putting in the hours you need to level up. You will need to share your username and password with these players, compromising your account. If your credit card is attached to your account, these users can go on a shopping spree.

• Don't share personal details in games. Other players may ask you about yourself, but sharing personal details such as your full name, address, birthday, etc. can open you up to the risk of identity theft.

• Use unique passwords: Use different passwords for each account you create. If your password falls into the hands of scammers, your other accounts won’t be compromised.

3. The Hazard of Online Cigarette Sales Ploys

As if you didn’t need another reason to quit smoking, new scams have been popping up encouraging consumers to purchase cigarettes from online international sellers.

While the vendor website may look legitimate and includes big brand names with great pricing, consumers can easily spot trouble when they go to check-out, the seller will not accept credit cards and insists on payment via wire transfer or prepaid debit card.

Don’t do it! The seller will take your money and confirm the order shipped - but the cigarettes will never arrive.

This scam is a cautionary tale for many other fraudulent retail operations. To spot an online sales scam, keep an eye out for the following before making a purchase:

• Be wary if the price is significantly lower than on similar sites. If a deal seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is.

• Avoid all retail websites that insist on a wire transfer or prepaid debit card transaction as a form of payment.

• Check for contact information and social media presence: Look for a real address and telephone number in the site’s contact information. Check out the company’s social media presence to verify their activity and search verifiable websites for consumer reviews.

• Use Whois.com. This website can help you check the domain name to see if it is registered in the country where the business claims to be located.

• Make sure websites are secure and authenticated: Before you purchase an item online. Look for "https" before the web address and online seals that ensure your credit card and/or banking information is secure.

POSTED: Mar 15, 2017
MCU’s Tips for Talking to Kids About Money

Talking to kids about money can help them develop positive habits that will stay with them throughout their entire lives. According to the National Standards for Financial Literacy, young people who learn about money early on are more inclined to make positive financial decisions, and better understand the trade-offs in the financial choices they make.

While it’s important to talk to kids about money early on, it can also be a challenge. To get started, check out our tips below.

Budgeting: Show and Tell

An allowance can help to introduce children to money but discussing a budget can help further their understanding of its importance.

By discussing expenses like the cost of new school clothes or favorite toys, kids can have a better idea what a dollar is worth and how important it is to plan on how to spend their money. These budgets can also help children to understand the importance of long-term saving for larger expenses they may want.

Depending on your level of comfort, parents can also invite their children to help plan the family budget to help them consider larger and more complex goals, such as monthly bills, groceries and saving for college.

Play money- themed games

Kids learn in many different ways. For many, this is through doing activities and having fun while they’re at it.

In addition to talking about a real-life budget, age-appropriate games, apps and toys can engage children and help them to think about the value of money and financial strategies. Games like Monopoly, Pay Day and the Game of Life may be classics but are still a great place to start.

Open a Youth Savings Account

A youth savings account is a great interactive way to get kids on their way to financial literacy. Taking children on trips to your credit union to complete to make a deposit and sitting down to review monthly statements are not only opportunities to spend time together, but to also teach basic banking skills and the importance of saving for the future.

MCU’s Smart Apple Savers and Future Investors accounts offer our young members features and benefits to make saving easy including:

• Minimum opening deposit of $10

• Earned share dividend rates

• Quarterly statements

• Dividends compounded and credited quarterly

• No minimum balance requirements, changes or fees

POSTED: Mar 03, 2017
Shared Secured Loans

If you’ve struggled with your credit history, you’re certainly not alone. According to a recent study, more than 68 million Americans have a poor credit score of 600 or lower. Whether an individual has demonstrated poor long-term financial habits or has simply dealt with an unexpected expense, a low credit score can have many repercussions. This may include difficulty being approved for loans, higher interest rates, more expensive insurance premiums and even being passed over for a job.

For many looking to get back on track with their finances, a shared secured loan is an important financial product that can not only help rebuild credit but also offer a means to a line of credit at a lower interest rate. This is because it uses funds in a savings account — either a share account, share certificate account or money market account — as collateral for your loan.

The Benefits of a shared secured loan may include:

• The funds borrowed can be used for virtually anything

• The collateral from your share account qualifies you for a lower rate than an unsecured loan

• The maximum amount of money loaned is based on your deposit

• You continue to earn dividends on the full balance in your account

• As payments are made to the principal of the loan, funds are released back into your savings.

• Direct deposit or payroll deduction are available

While the benefits of a shared secured loan are significant, borrowers should also know:

• Shared secured loans do not boost your credit score as significantly as an unsecured loan.

• A shared secured loan on your record may demonstrated to lenders that you did not qualify for any other loan based on your income or credit.

• Like an unsecured loan, late payments on a shared secured will result in consequences.

Like all financial products, shared secured loans may vary on a case by case basis. To learn more about how an MCU Shared Secured Loan may work for you, visit nymcu.org today!

POSTED: Dec 29, 2016
What to Know About Debt Consolidation

Even in the best of situations, managing debt is stressful and it can quickly become increasingly complicated as individuals struggle to manage multiple overdue balances and work with different creditors. As accounts become difficult to keep track of and interest continues to compound on unpaid bills, it can be easy to feel like the situation is out of control. Fortunately, options such as debt consolidation can help individuals regain control and begin the path to being debt-free.


Know Your Options

There are a few different methods to consolidate debt, in order to make the best decision for your circumstances, it is always best to be informed.

One of the most popular ways to consolidate debt is to transfer the balances of several higher-rate credit cards to a card with lower fees and (ideally) a zero percent APR introductory rate and a lower, more favorable rate after that. Borrowers can take advantage of this grace period to take advantage of paying down the principle of their debt.

A second common form of debt consolidation is to take out a loan large enough to pay off multiple creditors at once. Once your multiple bills have been consolidated into just one monthly payment, a borrower will not only have a much easier time keeping track of payments but could potentially save hundreds or thousands of dollars in interest. A loan may be obtained from your financial institution in the form of a personal loan or Home Equity Line of Credit or can be provided through debt relief companies.

Always Remember to be Mindful

While debt consolidation is a smart solution for many, it’s not for everybody. For example, it is primarily for those who have unsecured debts, such as credit or retail cards. If most of your debt and liabilities include tax debt, unpaid child support or old parking tickets these plans won't help. Borrowers should also be sure that they will be able to make the payments on the new card balance or loan they have taken out – this includes reviewing the details of the product agreement and interest rates. To help combat high interest rates, choose your lender wisely. Working with a financial institution you already have a relationship with can help ensure a more favorable loan agreement.

Debt consolidation also is not the end-all-be-all to financial troubles. As you consolidate debt, the credit cards and store cards that you’ve paid off could still remain open, which makes it easy for to run up new bills, on top of your consolidation loan debt. Consolidating debt also does not address underlying spending and financial problems. Because of this, those considering consolidation should also seek financial counseling for long-term success.

POSTED: Dec 29, 2016
An MCU Scam Alert Update

An estimated 11 percent of adults in the United States lose money each year because of criminal activity – that’s 25.6 million people! Consumers are getting smarter about fraud, but unfortunately thieves are too. Criminals are defrauding many victims by combining new technology with old tricks to gain access to their money and personal information.

Being informed is the first step to keeping your money and personal information safe. Check out these recent scams plaguing hardworking people everywhere.

1. Don’t Get Hooked by Text Phishing

Consumers have become accustomed to phishing scams via email so thieves have switched it up by using text messages or SMS. Usually posing as a government agency or financial institution, identity thieves and scam artists will panic victims with a message that implies a sense of urgency and a immediate response in order for them to quickly turn over personal and account information. Text phishing – or smishing – scams typically ask consumers to provide usernames and passwords, credit and debit card numbers, PINs, or other sensitive information that scam artists can use to commit fraud. However, it is important to remember that credit unions, banks and government agencies will never reach out for sensitive information through these means.

Never open links in unsolicited text messages, as they may infect your mobile device with malware that will steal the financial information stored on the device. It is also important to not call any phone numbers provided in suspicious text messages. Instead, be sure to contact any financial information, government, agency, or company identified in the text message by using the information in your records or listed on the official website.

2. Download Apps with Caution

Because of the recent holiday season, new phony retail apps have popped up in both Apple and Android app stores. It’s important to keep an eye out for these apps, which typically have names and logos very similar to those of legitimate companies and popular digital shopping platforms.

It’s good practice to always be careful when downloading any new apps. While most fake apps are fairly harmless and are used to simply delivery spam-like advertising, others may require the user to enter their credit card information or personal information. If this information is shared, it could leave users at risk of fraud.

To help ensure that an app is secure and user-friendly, check to see how often and well the app has been reviewed.

3. There’s a New Tax Bill Scam on the Block

While consumers are becoming increasingly savvy in recognizing tax bills scams, fraudsters aren’t giving up. The IRS has recently reported that fake documents designed to look like real CP2000 notices have come into circulation. CP2000 notices are typically sent out by the IRS to notify a person that information it receives about their income doesn’t match the information reported on their tax return. In this instance, the counterfeit document are targeting victims be claiming that taxpayers owe money for the previous tax year under the Affordable Care Act.

The idea of getting a letter from the IRS can cause people to panic and act quickly without realizing they they’ve been scammed. Luckily, there are some easy to spot warnings that can help you avoid becoming a victim.

For example, the IRS will never:

• Initiate contact with you by email or through social media.

• Ask you to pay using a gift card, pre-paid debit card, or wire transfer.

• Request personal or financial information by email, texts, or social media.

• Threaten to immediately have you arrested or deported for not paying.

POSTED: Dec 29, 2016
Budget-Friendly Tips for Last-Minute Travelers

Whether it’s a change of plans, unexpected time off or just a sudden urge to get away, the opportunity to take a vacation may come along without much warning. And if you’re looking to travel without the luxury of time to plan ahead, you could be looking at a both a challenge and an opportunity.

Traveling should never break the bank. Check out our money-saving last minute travel tips below!

1. Consider your flights first

Because of potentially high costs, airfare can often be a deal breaker when it comes to planning a last minute vacation. While deals can sometimes be found 14 to 21 days in advance, it’s more common that airfare becomes more expensive the closer you get to your travel dates. This is why it’s important to plan your airfare before booking hotel rooms, as you may find your trip isn’t as affordable as you originally thought.

To give yourself the best chance of finding an affordable last minute flight, travelers are encouraged to search for deals during the midweek. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are known to be the best days for booking last-minute travel, as prices tend to climb as the weekend approaches.

2. Sign up for last-minute travel email lists.

In order to fill empty seats and rooms, hotels, and cruise ships will often offer great discounts about two weeks in advance. Subscribing to weekly e-newsletter offered by travel websites and some airlines will help you stay informed on some of these great deals, which can be perfect for anybody who can take time off from work quickly and easily.

3. Be flexible!

If you’re on a quest for a great deal – rest assured, it’s out there! However, travelers may find themselves heading to unexpected destinations or traveling during off-peak times during the week.

Because airlines and hotels are less crowded on weekdays, midweek vacations will offer you the best deals and the most options for your budget if you’re looking to book a trip last minute. Staying open-minded about where you’ll travel will also help you to shop and compare hotel deals. You may even find yourself taking in some unexpected sights.

4. Negotiate for a rental home.

Take advantage of vacation home vacancies by suggesting a fee lower than the owner’s asking price. A rental homeowner will almost certainly prefer to have their property occupied at a price less than what they originally asked for, opposed to not at all. This will give you some leverage in a last-minute rental home negotiation, allowing you to get a deal, while sticking within your budget. It is also worth considering a rental home in a town next to your destination. The available properties may be easier to find and more affordable.

5. Let us know you’re traveling.

No matter whether your vacation is last-minute or not, letting your credit union or bank know you’re traveling before you go will keep your getaway secure and can even help keep you on budget by preventing financial hiccups.

The priority of your financial institution is to protect your money and personal information. This is done by keeping an eye on card transactions in order to spot irregular activity and detect fraud. If you’re traveling, your card activity is almost certainly going to look abnormal and may result in a hold being placed on your card or account for security purposes. This is especially true if you’re traveling abroad or a significant distance from your home.

While this could surely put a hitch in your vacation, it’s also very easy to avoid. Just let us know your plans to travel! Give us a call at (212) 693-4900 or visit your local MCU Branch to speak with a member of our team. We recommend giving us at least two days notice before you begin your trip.

POSTED: Nov 10, 2016
MCU’s Winter Energy-Saver Tips

When temperatures begin to dip, hot cocoa won’t be enough to keep you warm for long, which means you could be seeing a spike in your energy bill. In fact, according to the Energy Information Administration, around 42% of all home energy costs are directly related to heating and cooling.

As New Yorkers dig deep into their bank accounts to keep warm in the winter, we’ve come up with a few easy tips that will help keep your homes warm and your savings safe this season. Check them out below!

Air seal and insulate your home

Noticed a draft lately? Air that leaks through your home's envelopes - the outer walls, roof, windows, doors, and other openings – allows heat to easily escape. It might not seem like much but even small air leaks waste a lot of energy and increases your utility costs. A well-sealed envelope, coupled with the right amount of insulation, can help keep heat sealed into your home and make a real difference on your utility bills. To get started, cover up any openings under doors, around windows. If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, damper when not in use, close the damper when it’s not in use.

As an added bonus, sealing leaks and adding insulation will also reduce outside noise and improve humidity control throughout your home.

Invest in a programmable thermostat

According to the U. S Department of Energy, lowering your home’s thermostat by 10-15 degrees while you’re at work, asleep or away can reduce your energy bill by nearly 10 percent!

A programmable thermostat can help you easily get into this money-saving practice by automatically adjusting the temperature of your home based on your work and sleep habits. It can also greatly improve your general comfort levels by already beginning to bring the temperature back up before you return home or wake up.

Open the Curtains During the Day, Close them at Night

Opening your curtains won’t just brighten up your living space, it also helps your home receive free heat from natural light. By allowing the sun to shine in, you’ll not only save money from keeping your lights off during the day, but you’ll be sure to keep your home a bit warmer. In the evening, close your curtains – they’ll help to keep some of the heat from escaping.

Move Furniture Away from Vents

You may not know it but it may be time to rearrange your furniture. No, we’re not talking about making your living room Feng Shui-friendly. Take a look around your home and try to spot any large pieces of furniture that may be blocking the heating vents. Moving these pieces may help circulate warmer air in homes that have forced-air central heating.

POSTED: Oct 26, 2016
MCU’s Identity Protection Tips for Online Holiday Shopping

With crowded stores and long lines, it’s no secret why millions of Americans are ditching their shopping carts in favor of the internet during the holidays. In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, nearly half of all holiday shopping was done online in 2015 – and more people are expected to take to their laptops and smartphones to check off items on their shopping lists this year.

While online shopping is a great way to save time and find great deals, it can also make your personal and card information more vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves. To help keep the happy in “Happy Holidays,” check out these easy ways to stay safe while online shopping this season.

1. Stick to Just One Credit Card

When it comes to shopping online, your credit card can be a safer way to make online purchases, compared to other means of payment. Credit Cards provide valuable protection when doing holiday shopping since they have systems in place to handle fraud issues more expediently and don't leave you waiting for lost funds to be reclaimed.

Additionally, sticking to just one credit card can be beneficial while shopping during the holiday season both on and offline. Doing this will not only help you to stay on budget but will also help you to more easily keep an eye out for potential identity theft or fraud.

2. Be Wary of Public WiFi hotspots

Saving your data is great but think twice before logging into a public WiFi hotspot to shop online –your information may not be safe. These networks are unsecured connections that hackers can easily access and steal any personal information you may be putting out during the time you are connected.

3. Stick to Secure Sites

When visiting a website that asks for sensitive information such as credit card numbers, it’s important to make sure that the website is encrypted over a secure connection. Otherwise, your information could easily fall into the hands of hackers.

To ensure that you’re using a secured website, check out the URL – it should begin with “https” rather than “http”. The “s” at the end of “http” stands for secure and is using an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) connection. You can also check for the “Lock” icon that is displayed somewhere in the window of your web browser.

POSTED: Sep 16, 2016
Financial Tips for a Stress-Free Vacation

Planning a getaway? Whether it’s a brief weekend out of town or a trip around the world, these money tips can help keep your vacation stress-free. After all, that’s what a vacation is all about!

1. Let us know you’re traveling!

Our priority is protecting your money and personal information. One way that we do this is by keeping an eye on card transactions in order to spot irregular activity and detect fraud. If you’re traveling, your card activity is almost certainly going to look abnormal and may result in a hold being placed on your card or account for security purposes. This is especially true if you’re traveling abroad or a significant distance from your home.

While this could surely put a hitch in your vacation, it’s also very easy to avoid. Just let us know your plans to travel! Give us a call at (212) 693-4900 or visit your local MCU Branch to speak with a member of our team. We recommend giving us at least two days notice before you begin your trip.

2. Sign up for MCU Online Banking and download our mobile app

Downloading our mobile banking app means you can take a break from snapping photos on your phone and log into your accounts quickly and easily. This can help you manage your money when there isn’t a branch nearby or when taking the time to call into our contact center may be inconvenient.

A great vacation tool for staying on top of your accounts for day-to-day transactions and handle emergency situations? We think yes.

3. Preorder tickets and excursions

Looking to take a museum tour or see a show? Preordering your tickets can help you stay on a predetermined budget made before you start your travels and minimize the amount of spontaneous credit and debit card transactions made while you’re away.

The more you plan ahead, the less there is to think about on your trip – financially and otherwise!

4. Be mindful of important documents and currency

Before traveling, be sure to make copies of important documents including your passport, credit cards and drivers license. Leave one copy with a friend or relative at home and bring the other copy with you. If you can, keep these documents in a hotel room safe. Do not carry them with you – it will leave you especially vulnerable if you lose your wallet or bag or fall victim to a pickpocket.

If you are planning to mostly use cash on your trip, you can save yourself stress and aggravation by ordering foreign currency ahead of time. For the same reasons that you must be mindful of your documents, don’t carry large amounts of cash at once.

5. Plan Ahead With a Vacation Club Account

The best way to have a financially stress-free vacation? Plan ahead.

Opening an MCU Vacation Club Account means putting away a little bit each month in an easy and convenient Check out the benefits below:

• Open your MCU Vacation Club Account with as little as a $5 deposit.

• Add to the account like any other savings account, through direct deposit or automatic payroll deduction, and watch your account balance grow.

• During the first week of May, the money you have accumulated in your Vacation Club Account will automatically be deposited into your FasTrack Checking Account or Share Account for you to access.

• Save for an even bigger vacation in the future by rolling over your funds right back into your Vacation Club Account.

POSTED: Sep 16, 2016
Financial Tips for a Stress-Free Vacation

Planning a getaway? Whether it’s a brief weekend out of town or a trip around the world, these money tips can help keep your vacation stress-free. After all, that’s what a vacation is all about!

1. Let us know you’re traveling!

Our priority is to protect your money and personal information. One way that we do this is by keeping an eye on card transactions in order to spot irregular activity and detect fraud. If you’re traveling, your card activity is almost certainly going to look abnormal and may result in a hold being placed on your card or account for security purposes. This is especially true if you’re traveling abroad or a significant distance from your home.

While this could surely put a hitch in your vacation, it’s also very easy to avoid. Just let us know your plans to travel! Give us a call at (212) 693-4900 or visit your local MCU Branch to speak with a member of our team. We recommend giving us at least two days notice before you begin your trip.

2. Download the NYMCU Mobile Banking App and take us with you.

Downloading the NYMCU Mobile Banking App means managing your money is as easy as snapping photos on your phone. With easy access to your accounts when you’re on the go, NYMCU Mobile Banking lets you stay on top of your finances, pay bills, check balances and much more.

A great vacation tool for staying on top of your accounts for day-to-day transactions and handle emergency situations? We think yes.

3. Preorder tickets and book excursions in advance.

Looking to take a museum tour or see a show? Preordering your tickets can help you stay on a predetermined budget while you’re away. This won’t just help you plan out your trip better but will minimize the amount of spontaneous credit and debit card transactions made while you’re away.

The more you plan, the less there is to think about on your trip – financially and otherwise!

The more you plan ahead, the less there is to think about on your trip – financially and otherwise!

4. Be mindful of important documents and currency.

If your passport is lost or stolen on a trip, you could find yourself stuck at the border and at risk of identity theft. To avoid this issue, it’s recommended to make two copies of your passport ID page. Give one copy to someone you trust such as a friend or family member and keep one copy in safe place, such as a hotel safe. Having a copy of your passport handy will make sure you have all of the information you’ll need to make a report and get a replacement.

It may seem natural to want to duplicate this process with your credit cards but instead, it’s recommended to write down your credit card numbers and details in a discrete manner and keep this information in a secure place. This will make it easy to make a report with your card provider if you have to, while adding an extra element of security.

And if you are planning to mostly use cash on your trip, you can save yourself stress and aggravation by ordering foreign currency ahead of time. For the same reasons that you must be mindful of your documents, don’t carry large amounts of cash at once.

5. Plan ahead with an MCU Vacation Club Account.

There’s nothing more stressful than feeling the financial pinch before or in the middle of your vacation. The best way to avoid these nerve-wracking situations? Plan ahead. Opening an MCU Vacation Club Account means putting away a little bit each pay period in preparation for your travels. It’s not only easy and convenient, but also financially prepares vacation-goers by helping them set a predetermined budget.

Check out the benefits below:

• Open your MCU Vacation Club Account with as little as a $5 deposit.

• Add to the account like any other savings account, through direct deposit or automatic payroll deduction, and watch your account balance grow.

• During the first week of May, the money you have accumulated in your Vacation Club Account will automatically be deposited into your FasTrack Checking Account or Share Account for you to access.

• Save for an even bigger vacation in the future by rolling over your funds right back into your Vacation Club Account.

POSTED: Aug 05, 2016
Financial Conversations to Have Before Getting Married

Money can’t buy happiness but being on the same page about finances with your partner can make for a happy relationship. If you’re looking to tie the knot soon, these conversations about money help both get your marriage off on the right foot and remain successful throughout the years to come.

Budgeting

There’s no way around it – if you’re going to be spending your life with somebody, you should have an understanding of how you’ll be spending your money together too. It is important to know how your partner prioritizes saving money in relation to traveling, expensive goods, entertainment, etc. While knowing these preferences is important, talking about how closely you each stick to a budget right now is important as well to help create an understanding about how money will be managed.

You may not agree on everything but a conversation can help you avoid surprises and help to create a spending plan. This is important because without a budget and spending plan, it’ll be nearly impossible to work as a team as to not find yourselves coming up short each month – or, even worse, find yourself with a mountain of debt.

Joint or Personal Accounts?

While marriage means living together, some people don’t believe in keeping their money together. A conversation about holding joint or personal accounts will help a couple to talk about the financial benefits of marriage and if they are comfortable sharing all of their new responsibilities and expenses. This topic can get especially tricky when one party sees sharing money as a marker of commitment more than the other but it is beneficial to have in helping to set expectations.

This conversation may also lead to the topic of a prenuptial agreement and how both parties feel about keeping their money together or separate in all instances. There are also cases where it’s advisable to have a prenuptial agreement – for instance, when one partner is substantially wealthier than the other and has other heirs to consider. It will also save you a ton of time and money in the event that you divorce and go your separate ways.

Financial Obligations

As mentioned above, couples should communicate their expenses and responsibilities before getting married. Oftentimes, this conversation will include any financial obligations or debts that each person is currently responsible for. Putting these expenses on the table will help in both setting an effective budget and creating trust between both parties, as it eliminates surprises that may arise once you’re married.

Retirement

Marriage is for the long run so talking about the far-off future before walking down the aisle isn’t farfetched. Retirement savings and planning, as well as life insurance policies, will eventually be an important factor in the household income. To prepare for that time, talk about whether you participate in a retirement plan at work or contribute to an IRA. You could also make a plan to change the beneficiary information on any currently existing insurance policies.

Back Up Plans

There’s a reason why many couples include the phrase “for richer or poorer” in their vows – life can come with hard knocks. When money gets tight, fear or frustration can cause couples to fight. The best way the weather these stormy times is to plan ahead by discussing the importance of creating and growing an emergency fund. Important questions to discuss include what the ideal amount of savings is and what the rules are for withdrawing funds from this back up account.

POSTED: Aug 05, 2016
Co-ops Vs Condos: Know the difference

In New York City, co-ops and condos are among some of the most popular kinds of real estate available to potential homebuyers. While there may not seem to be much of a difference between these types of properties, key differences could make a big difference in your experience as both a homebuyer and homeowner. Check them out here!

1. Ownership

While co-ops are typically more affordable than condos, there is a difference in the type ownership between the two. Legally, condos are considered to be real property and co-ops are personal property.

This is because when you purchase a co-op, you’re purchasing stock in a privately-held corporation that owns the building. As a stockholder, you are given a proprietary lease for a specific apartment. The shares give you the right to live in the apartment, provided you following the by-laws of the building.

A condo, on the other hand, is a straight forward form of ownership like owning a house.

2. Board Approval

Both co-ops and condos usually have boards, which are committees that help to make sure the complex runs smoothly. However, co-op boards are notoriously strict and have a greater say in what tenants can and cannot do.

In a co-op, the board can come up with rules regarding how you renovate your apartment, keep pets, and much more. In extreme cases, the co-op board can even evict a shareholder that it deems disruptive. The benefit from this is to protect your investment and provide a peaceful environment in the building.

When buying a co-op, you must go before the board and submit to an approval process. The board will go over your finances and credit, and review your debt-to-income ratio. This is done to ensure that all potential owners of the co-op can pay for their mortgage and co-op maintenance fee. This process involves a great deal of paperwork, which may often require the assistance of an attorney to prepare.

3. Income Property

If you think you may want to use your new home as a source of income at some point, you’ll want to consider the difference in subletting policies between co-ops and condos. As mentioned before, co-op boards can be very strict in the policies they enforce for co-op owners. This includes whether or not owners can lease their units and if so, for how long. Condos, on the other hand, do not enforce leasing limitations.

4. Monthly Expenses and Taxes

Both condos and co-ops have monthly fees, which are respectively referred to as common charges and maintenance fees. These charges go towards the overall maintenance of the building and its common areas. These fees can vary with the size of the building, number of units and types of amenities offered.

The main difference between a condo’s common charges and a co-op’s maintenance fees is that the maintenance fees include charges for a percentage of the building’s property tax, which are calculated according to the number of shares you own.

If you own a condo, you are responsible for paying your unit’s property taxes directly to the government. Therefore, it might not be wise to directly compare these fees.

It is important to note that both types of properties can also charge assessment fees for building renovation projects, such as the installation of a new elevator.

POSTED: Jul 05, 2016
MCU’s Tips for Recognizing Identity Theft

If you’re not concerned about being at risk for identity theft, it’s time to think again. According to a recent study conducted by the Harris Poll, nearly 60 million American have been affected by identity theft. And as consumers become more sophisticated about protecting themselves, criminals have learned to adapt.

Once stolen, an identity thief can use your personal information to empty your bank accounts, make purchases online, use your medical insurance and open new credit card and utility accounts. While consumers are exposed to a lot of great information about the steps they should take to protect themselves against identity theft, it’s equally important to know the signs that you’ve become a victim. This will help you to take the necessary steps as soon as possible.

Your security is important to MCU and your other financial institutions. As we continue to monitor your accounts for fraud, you should keep an eye out as well. According to the Federal Trade Commission, key warning signs of identity theft include:

  • • Unexplained withdrawals from your bank account
  • • Missing bills or other pieces of sensitive mail
  • • Bounced checks
  • • Calls from debt collectors about debts that aren’t yours
  • • Unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report.
  • • Medical bills for services you didn’t use
  • • Your health plan rejects a legitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefits limit
  • • A health plan won’t cover you because your medical records show a condition you don’t have
  • • The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name, or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for
  • • You get a notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account

If you notice any of these warning signs and believe that you’ve been affected by identity theft, learn more about the steps you can take here.

POSTED: Jun 17, 2016
Four Things to Do When You Lose Your Wallet

Reaching for your wallet and realizing that it’s lost – or even worse, stolen – can feel like a nightmare. You may be ready to panic but consumers should resist the urge. Taking a few important steps as soon as possible will help to protect your personal and financial information and replace important documents quickly.

1. Contact your financial institutions or debit or credit card issuers.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, if you report the loss of a debit card before someone illegally uses it, you’re not responsible for any unauthorized transactions. Similarly, under the Fair Credit Billing Act, credit card holders aren’t liable for any expense incurred if their credit card information is stolen and used to make purchases as long as they have reported the card lost or stolen ahead of time. To report a lost or stolen credit card to MCU, call (800) 449-7728. To report your MCU Debit Card lost or stolen, call (212) 693-4900.

2. Replace your driver’s license or ID.

A trip to the DMV to replace a lost license or photo ID can stressful and inconvenient. Luckily, New Yorkers can now quickly begin the process of replacing these important documents simply by visiting the New York State DMV Website. If you’re worried that your ID was stolen, you can help protect your personal identity by filing a report with your local police department. In some instances, this may even come with the added benefit of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) waiving your replacement fee. For more information on how to replace a New York State Driver’s License or Photo ID or on the steps you can take to report this document stolen, learn more here.

3. Pull your credit scores.

Disabled debt and credit cards may protect your finances but they can still be used by criminals to steal your identity and open lines of credit in your name. In an effort to protect your personal and financial information, it’s recommended to set up a fraud alert with one of the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax or TransUnion. It’s also important to check for any strange activity on your accounts and credit report throughout the year, even after the 90-day fraud alert expires.

Learn more about how to recognize identity theft here.

4. Social Security Card Missing Too?

If it can be avoided, your social security should never be carried around in a wallet. If an identity thief gains access to this information, he or she can easily open credit accounts in your name. If your social security card went missing with the rest of your wallet, look into applying for a credit freeze, which will prevent anyone from applying for credit under your name using this information. Using a credit freeze as precaution will come with a small fee, depending on the state you live in. However, it’s free to replace your social security card up to three times a year.

POSTED: Nov 06, 2014
Five Helpful Tips: Buying a Used Car.

* Shop around. Comparing similar makes and models can help ensure that's you're getting a fair deal.

> Research the vehicle's history. This includes past owners, use, and maintenance and if the car has been involved in any accidents or natural disasters. Running the vehicle identification number (VIN) will help confirm the car's history.

> Check the warranty. Contact manufacturers to confirm that you can use the coverage.

> Ask about the dealer's return policy. Get it in writing and read it carefully.

> Have the car inspected by your mechanic.

And don't forget to know your financing options! When it comes time to make your purchase, MCU members have access to exceptionally competitive auto loans, including:

> Up to 125% financing available

> Low interest rates

> Flexible terms

> Auto Refinance loans

POSTED: Nov 06, 2014
When it Pays to Refinance Your Mortgage

For homeowners, a mortgage refinance could mean big benefits – it can help lower monthly interest payment, drop private mortgage insurance and even help individuals reach financial goals. However, while this financial move can save you thousands of dollars over time, it’s not the right decision for everybody and homeowners must take their personal circumstances into consideration before starting the process.

To help decide if a mortgage refinance is right for you, check out these important factors to take into consideration.

1. You’re planning to stay put until you break even Refinancing a mortgage is only financially beneficial if homeowners commit to staying in their homes longer than the break-even period. This is the number of months you need to own your home after refinancing in order to recover the expense.

For example, if you pay $2,000 in closing costs to refinance your mortgage and you lower your monthly payments by $100, it would take 20 months to reach the break-even point if you were to calculate it on a straight-line basis ($2,000/$100).

2. Your home has increased in value. If the value of your home has gone up considerably, you might also get some benefit from refinancing your mortgage, especially if you have other high-interest debt to pay off or you’re expecting some upcoming expenses. In this scenario, homeowners can refinance for a new mortgage that’s larger than what they previously owed, and you receive the difference in cash. This is known as a cash-out refinance and it’s often used as an alternative to a home equity line of credit.

For example, if you currently have a $200,000 mortgage on that has increased in value over time to $350,000, you could be refinance your mortgage for $225,000 (or more!) and use the extra money however you need.

In other situations, refinancing your mortgage after your home has significantly increased in value can also help to eliminate PMI, which will lower monthly payments. Homeowners typically pay PMI until they have 20 percent equity in their property. If the value of your home increases enough where you now owe less than 80 percent of the home’s value, you may benefit from a refinance.

3. Your credit has improved (a lot). Your credit score and credit history help a lender understand if you are a reliable borrower. The more reliable you are, the higher your credit score and the lower your interest rate. If your credit score has considerably improved (about a hundred points more), you could qualify for a better interest rate on your mortgage.

And because your mortgage is such a significant amount of money – hundreds of thousands of dollars – even a few tenths of a percentage point could mean saving thousands of dollars over the lifespan of your loan.

4. You’re ready to shorten your loan term. Refinancing your mortgage from a 30-year fixed rate to a 15-year fixed rate will mean a larger monthly payment and less financial flexibility for times when money may be tight. However, if you’re financial circumstances have changed (you may have gotten a promotion or made a career move), and you feel confident in taking on a larger bill each month, you could ultimately find yourself saving thousands of dollars on your mortgage in the long-run.

POSTED: Nov 06, 2014
Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Buying a home is an exciting milestone in a person’s life. Nevertheless, the process of obtaining a mortgage – especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer – can be a confusing and frustrating one. Luckily, there are some easy steps and tips you can follow to make your dream of becoming a homeowner an easier and stress-free experience.

1. Never underestimate your ability to become a homeowner.

Many people don’t know if they are financially ready to pursue homeownership and are hesitant to find out. However, you may be surprised to learn that there are several factors and qualification that will determine if you could be approved for a mortgage. This includes credit, assets and income. The key to starting the process is to get educated! It may seem overwhelming but resources are available, including MCU’s First-Time Homebuyers Seminar Series.

2. Get familiar with the mortgage process and requirements.

Many first time homebuyers don’t realize the necessary steps they’ll have to take and the materials they’ll need to provide throughout the mortgage approval process. This can cause delays, setbacks and a lot of frustration.

To start, homebuyers should contact their financial institution to find out the necessary requirements and deliverables. As a rule of thumb, most lenders will check a potential homebuyer’s credit; employment history; current income; and assets, including bank accounts, stocks, mutual funds and retirement accounts.

To learn more about what to expect during the home-buying process, check out our MCU 10-Step Home-Buying Checklist .

3. Understand all of the expenses you’ll be taking on.

In addition to understanding the process and deliverables associated with obtaining a mortgage, potential buyers should also take time to learn about the expenses they’ll be facing throughout the home-buying process. This won’t just prepare you for the true cost of purchasing a home, but will also give you an idea of whether or not your financial institution will think that you are financially ready.

In addition to a down payment, you’ll be expected to pay for closing costs, prepaid interest, taxes and insurance. Depending on your loan terms, you may also be required to set up an escrow account to cover property taxes and homeowners insurance.

4. Have Patience!

It is important to know that this process and can generally take anywhere between 30 – 60 days to close after receiving all the necessary documentation. Most borrowers believe the process officially begins with the first conversation they have with their loan officer. However, this is a common misconception and the process of receiving a mortgage can only begin once you’ve submitted all of the necessary documentation.

The key to homeownership is keeping a realistic outlook in terms of the home-buying experience. To learn more about how you can become a homeowner and how to obtain a mortgage, call (212) 238-3521 to speak with an MCU mortgage loan originator or learn more about our MCU Mortgage Products here .

POSTED: Nov 06, 2014
Credit Score FAQ

1. What Is a Credit Score?

A credit score is a number between 300 and 850 that is calculated from and summarizes an individual’s credit report and history. This number can play a significant role in how lenders determine credit-worthiness for a loan or credit card.

2. How does my credit score affect me?

A credit score projects how trustworthy an individual is to pay back future loans. However, your credit score plays a role in more than determining if a lender will approve you for a loan. It will also affect the interest rates you are offered, cost of some bills or utilities and your ability to rent an apartment or hold a certain job.

3. How is a Credit Score Calculated?

Personal information like age, income, ethnicity and marital status don’t influence your credit score. However, there are five factors that will affect your score to varying degrees. These include:

  • • Credit history (35 percent): This includes late or missed payments, bankruptcies, foreclosures and collection information. How much a single incident will affect your score may be related to how late your payments were, how much was owed, and how recently and how often you missed a payment.


  • • Available credit (30 percent): This refers to how much you owe on your accounts in relationship to your line of credit. For example, if you are currently using $5,000 on a $20,000 line of credit, you will be considered to be in better financial shape than somebody who is using $5,000 on a $7,000 line of credit. Lenders and creditors also like to see that you are responsibly able to use credit and pay it off. Credit cards and other lines of credit that are “maxed out” may negatively impact your credit score.


  • • Length of credit (15 percent): The longer a line of credit is open, the more it will increase your credit score. Other factors that may be taken into account when calculating this portion of your credit score include the age of the newest credit account versus the longer credit account and how active each account’s history has been.


  • • Credit mix (10 percent): The mix of accounts you have, such as revolving and installment. This includes credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, finance company accounts and mortgage loans.


  • • New credit (10 percent): Your pursuit of new credit, including credit inquiries and number of recently opened accounts. However, research shows that opening several new credit accounts in a short period represents greater risk - especially for people who don't have a long credit history. Your FICO Scores take into account several factors, including how you shop for credit.

4. What are the benefits of a good credit score?

A very good credit score is considered 720 or higher while a poor credit score would be considered below 620. Having a good score is very important and will give borrowers access to benefits, including:

  • • Increased credit card limits
  • • Competitive mortgage and refinancing rates
  • • Lower financing rates for loans and insurance
  • • Excellent credit card deals
  • • Leverage when negotiating with lenders

5. How Can I improve my Credit Score?

Rebuilding your credit score can take time but is possible by targeting key problems and working to take the appropriate steps. This may include:

  • • If you have a lot of debt, it’s time to pay it down. While doing this can prove to be difficult, it’s not impossible. The most important step you can take is to create a plan that will help put a large piece of your budget towards your highest interest credit cards, while maintaining your other minimum payments on your other cards. It is strongly recommended not to stop making payments on any of your cards. This will be the most effective step to minimizing your debt and, ultimately, repairing your credit score.


  • • No credit? Apply for a credit card. Having and using a credit card can help to build your scores, even when you don’t carry a balance. If you don’t qualify for a traditional credit card, consider a secured credit card like the MCU Secured Credit Card, where you can obtain a credit line equal to the deposit you make, helping you to steadily rebuild your credit score.


  • • Strengthen your credit history and set up automatic payments. Making payments on time will help to build a strong credit score. By setting up automatic payments for fixed monthly bills, like cell phones or cable, you will make paying your bills as easy as possible. If you are unable to set up an automatic payment, setting a reminder for when bills are due can also help.

6. How can I check my credit score?

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, individuals should check their credit reports once every 12 months in order to check for mistakes that may hurt their ability to obtain a line of credit, protect against identity thieves and to be sure that all personal information is up to date and accurate. The only authorized site source under federal law that provides free credit reports is AnnualCreditReport.com. There are other websites that offer to check your credit score for you as well. However, these resources will eventually charge you for other services and products you may not necessarily need.

POSTED: Nov 06, 2014
MCU’s Five Things to Know: Building and Improving Your Credit Score

Building a good credit score is important. It plays a role in more than determining if a lender will approve you for a loan – it will affect the interest rates you are offered, cost of some bills or utilities, your ability to rent an apartment and even obtain certain jobs.

If you’re just financially starting out and don’t have a credit history or you have experienced financial setbacks that have damaged your credit score, there are several things you can do to build, improve or re-establish your credit and raise your credit score. Check them out below!

1. Know how your credit score is calculated.

The first step to building a healthy relationship with credit is knowing how it is calculated and what you should focus on most when considering your financial habits. To start, it’s important to know that personal information like age, income, ethnicity and marital status don’t influence your credit score. However, there are five factors that will affect your score to varying degrees. These include:

  • • Credit history (35 percent: This includes late or missed payments, bankruptcies, foreclosures and collection information.
  • • Available credit (30 percent): This refers to how much you owe on your accounts in relationship to your line of credit.
  • • Length of credit (15 percent): The longer a line of credit is open, the more it will increase your credit score.
  • • Credit mix (10 percent): The mix of accounts you have, such as revolving and installment. This includes credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, finance company accounts and mortgage loans.
  • • New credit (10 percent): Your pursuit of new credit, including credit inquiries and number of recently opened accounts.

2. Review your credit reports.

The three credit bureaus –TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian – are required to give you a free copy of your credit report once a year. This will help you to not only fully understand your situation and financial habits, but will also help you check for mistakes and fraud that could be negatively effecting your credit score.

You can order these reports online from annualcreditreport.com, which is the only authorized website for free credit reports, or call 1-877-322-8228. To receive your credit report, you will need to provide your name, address, social security number, and date of birth to verify your identity.

If anything seems wrong, you can also dispute errors through each credit bureau. Keep in mind some disputes will take longer than others. However, once you initiate a dispute, the credit bureaus are required to investigate it and report the resolution.

3. Pay down your current debt.

If you’ve accrued a large amount of debt, the prospect of paying it down may seem intimidating. However, it’s not impossible and this is one of the fastest ways you regain control on your credit score. The most important step you can take is to create a plan that will help put a large piece of your budget towards your highest interest credit cards, while maintaining your other minimum payments on your other cards. Do not stop making payments on any of your cards. This will be the most effective step to minimizing your debt and, ultimately, repairing your credit score.

4. Set up automatic payments.

Making payments on time will help you to establish a responsible payment history. One of the best ways to do this is to set up automatic payments for fixed monthly bills, including cell phones or cable. If you are unable to set up an automatic payment, setting a reminder for when bills are due can also help.

5. No credit? Apply for a credit card.

To a newcomer, credit can sound incredibly stressful or like something to avoid. However, credit is a necessity. To start, apply for a credit card – having and using a credit card can help to build your score, even when you don’t carry a balance.

If you don’t qualify for a traditional credit card, consider a secured credit card. These cards require a cash collateral deposit that becomes the credit line for that account. You can charge on the card only up to the amount you have on deposit. It’s a small step but it will help to prove your financial trustworthiness to lenders, employers, landlords and utility companies.

POSTED: Nov 06, 2014
MCU and You:The Benefits of Joining a Credit Union

There’s a lot to love about banking with a credit union! Check out the benefits below:

1. You’re more than just a customer. First and foremost, the biggest advantage of joining a credit union is that you become a member-owner of the institution. What does that mean exactly? Most importantly, it means that you benefit from the credit union’s not-for-profit structure, which passes along its earnings directly to members, opposed to investors, and makes business decisions that will best serve the membership.

2. Credit unions offer better rates and lower fees. Banks have a bad reputation for nickel and diming customers. On the flip side, credit unions are not focused on driving profits, but on reinvesting our earnings to serve our members (who are our shareholders) through better rates and lower fees.

For example, credit unions offer higher savings rates and lower interest rates on loans. In addition to lower loan rates, members may additionally qualify for further discounts for simply setting up automatic payments.

Similarly, fewer and lower fees at credit unions make it easier for members to save and manage their money. Credit unions will also often help members avoid types of fees including service fees or loan origination fees. Be sure to carefully read the policies and guidelines for the other fees that you may end up paying.

3. Credit unions are committed to giving back. The Credit Union Movement was founded on the philosophy of “People Helping People”. Credit unions across the country are dedicated to financial services to underserved populations, engaging youth; financial education and returning profits to their members.

All credit unions have a field of membership – this is a common link that all members of a credit union share, which can be based on employment; geographic location; family or membership to a group. Because of this, credit unions take a keen interest and have a strong commitment to the issues that matter most to their members. Goodwill initiatives are often local and work directly with the needs of these communities.

4. Members often have access to free financial education. If you’re interested in a financial institution that will not just help you service your accounts but also work with you to make positive financial choices, a credit union is an excellent option. Credit unions across the country conduct financial literacy and counseling initiatives that empower their members to make smarter financial decisions.

For example, MCU’s Financially Fit Seminar Series helps to educate bother members and community members on finances by offering a series of classes dedicated to important topics including understanding credit, the importance of budgeting and identity theft and prevention. To learn more about Financially Fit, contact a member o