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POSTED: Mar 30, 2020
An Update About Our Branches

March 30, 2020

UPDATE: Important Information Regarding Our Branches as of Tuesday, March 31st , 2020

Branch Hours and Availability:
At Municipal Credit Union (MCU), the safety of our members and employees is very important to us. We want you to know that Municipal Credit Union is committed to providing the best banking service possible to you during this difficult time.

Effective Tuesday, March 31st, we will be temporarily closing the following branch location:

Queens:

  • • 188-39 Linden Blvd., St. Albans, NY 11412
Lobby Closed. ATMs available.

As a reminder, our current branch operating hours are:

Monday through Friday: 10am to 4pm

Saturday: Closed

The five branch locations below are temporarily closed until further notice:

Brooklyn:

  • •1560 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11210
Lobby Closed. ATMs available.

Bronx:
  • • 353 East 149th Street, Bronx, NY 10455
Lobby Closed. ATMs available.

Manhattan:
  • • 280 St. Nicholas Avenue, New York, NY 10027
Lobby Closed. ATMs available.

Staten Island:
  • • 1756 Forest Avenue, Staten Island, NY 10314
Lobby Closed. ATMs available.

Queens:
  • • 188-39 Linden Blvd., St. Albans, NY 11412
Lobby Closed. ATMs available.

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation is evolving to include states of emergency being declared and restrictions placed on the number of people allowed to gather in public places, we strongly recommend that you use MCU’s digital tools and ATMs for self-service banking and 24/7 account access.

Through NYMCU’s Online Banking and the Mobile App you can make payments, view balances and transactions, find an ATM, deposit checks using Mobile Deposit and more.

It’s easier and quicker to manage your accounts using our digital tools, especially since call wait times may be longer than usual.

It only takes a few minutes to:

  1. 1) Enroll in Online Banking

  2. 2) Download the MCU Mobile App (after enrolling in Online Banking):

    Download on the App Store
     

    Android app on Google Play

ATMs
You can use an MCU ATM to:

  • • Withdraw cash (up to $1,000 daily)

  • • Make an auto or personal loan payment

  • • Pay your Mortgage

  • • Pay your Visa Credit Card

  • • Transfer money between your MCU accounts

  • • Check your account balance

You can also use one of the 30,000 CO-OP Network ATMs nationwide to make a cash withdrawal.

We apologize for any inconvenience these branch closures may cause you and we thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

POSTED: Mar 20, 2020
An Update Regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19)

March 20, 2020

Branch Hours and Availability:
At Municipal Credit Union (MCU), the safety of our members and employees is very important to us. We want you to know that Municipal Credit Union is committed to providing the best banking service possible to you during this difficult time. In our continuing effort to better protect our members and employees and in line with the precautionary measures strongly recommended by NYC, MCU will be reducing all of our branch operating hours.

Effective Monday, March 23rd, our new branch operating hours will be as follows:

Monday through Friday: 10am to 4pm

Saturday: Closed

In addition, we will be temporarily closing four of our branch locations until further notice.

Brooklyn:

  • •1560 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11210
Lobby Closed. ATMs available.

Bronx:
  • • 353 East 149th Street, Bronx, NY 10455
Lobby Closed. ATMs available.

Manhattan:
  • • 280 St. Nicholas Avenue, New York, NY 10027
Lobby Closed. ATMs available.

Staten Island:
  • • 1756 Forest Avenue, Staten Island, NY 10314
Lobby Closed. ATMs available.

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation is evolving to include states of emergency being declared and restrictions placed on the number of people allowed to gather in public places, we strongly recommend that you use MCU’s digital tools and ATMs for self-service banking and 24/7 account access.

Through NYMCU’s Online Banking and the Mobile App you can make payments, view balances and transactions, find an ATM, deposit checks using Mobile Deposit and more.

It’s easier and quicker to manage your accounts using our digital tools, especially since call wait times may be longer than usual.

It only takes a few minutes to:

  1. 1) Enroll in Online Banking

  2. 2) Download the MCU Mobile App (after enrolling in Online Banking):

    Download on the App Store
     

    Android app on Google Play

ATMs
You can use an MCU ATM to:

  • • Withdraw cash (up to $1,000 daily)

  • • Make an auto or personal loan payment

  • • Pay your Mortgage

  • • Pay your Visa Credit Card

  • • Transfer money between your MCU accounts

  • • Check your account balance

You can also use one of the 30,000 CO-OP Network ATMs nationwide to make a cash withdrawal.

We apologize for any inconvenience these branch closures may cause you and we thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

POSTED: Mar 19, 2020
An Update Regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19)

March 19, 2020

Branch Update
The Brooklyn Branch at 350 Jay Street is open for business. All other MCU branches remain open and fully operational and all banking services are available to members. To locate your nearest branch or ATM, please use the Branch/ATM Locator Tool.

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation is evolving to include states of emergency being declared and restrictions placed on the number of people allowed to gather in public places, we are asking our members to limit your visits to a branch unless it is absolutely necessary. Staffing in our branches may be limited and you may experience extended wait times. If you must visit a branch, please practice Social Distancing, where you maintain a distance of at least six feet between you and other people.

VERY IMPORTANT! For the safety of our members and employees, if you are not feeling well, we encourage you to stay home and not visit a branch.

Cash Withdrawals:
We understand everyone’s anxiety about what is going on in the world. We want to caution you that, from a safety standpoint, it’s not a good idea to take out too much cash and keep it at home. Please remember, your savings continue to be insured to at least $250,000 and are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States Government.

Contacting MCU
We also ask that you avoid calling the Contact Center unless you have a complex problem or necessary transaction that you cannot resolve through our online channels. To check your recent transactions, please login to Online or Mobile Banking. You may not be aware, but our Online/Mobile Banking channel has exactly the same real time information as our branches and Contact Center.

We strongly recommend that you use MCU’s digital tools and ATMs for self-service banking and 24/7 account access. Through Online Banking and the Mobile App, you can make payments, view balances and transactions, find an ATM, deposit checks using Mobile Deposit and more.

Many members visit our branches or call the Contact Center to conduct basic transactions like deposits, withdrawals, transfers, balances, loan payments, etc. Did you know you can use our ATMs and Online/Mobile Banking to do these transactions? It is simple and straightforward and only takes moments.

It’s easier and quicker to manage your accounts using our digital tools, especially since call wait times may be longer than usual.

It only takes a few minutes to:

  1. 1) Enroll in Online Banking

  2. 2) Download the MCU Mobile App (after enrolling in Online Banking):

    Download on the App Store
     

    Android app on Google Play

ATMs
You can use an MCU ATM to:

  • • Withdraw cash (up to $1,000 daily)

  • • Make an auto or personal loan payment

  • • Pay your Mortgage

  • • Pay your Visa Credit Card

  • • Transfer money between your MCU accounts

  • • Check your account balance

You can also use one of the 30,000 CO-OP Network ATMs nationwide to make a cash withdrawal.

We apologize for any inconvenience this branch closure may cause you and we thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

POSTED: Mar 18, 2020
An Update Regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19)

March 18, 2020

Branch Update
The Brooklyn Branch at 350 Jay Street has been temporarily closed and will reopen on Thursday, March 19th. All other MCU branches remain open and fully operational and all banking services are available to members. To locate your nearest branch or ATM, please use the Branch/ATM Locator Tool.

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation is evolving to include states of emergency being declared and restrictions placed on the number of people allowed to gather in public places, we are asking our members to limit your visits to a branch unless it is absolutely necessary. Staffing in our branches may be limited and you may experience extended wait times. If you must visit a branch, please practice Social Distancing, where you maintain a distance of at least six feet between you and other people.

VERY IMPORTANT! For the safety of our members and employees, if you are not feeling well, we encourage you to stay home and not visit a branch.

Cash Withdrawals:
We understand everyone’s anxiety about what is going on in the world. We want to caution you that, from a safety standpoint, it’s not a good idea to take out too much cash and keep it at home. Please remember, your savings continue to be insured to at least $250,000 and are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States Government.

Contacting MCU
We also ask that you avoid calling the Contact Center unless you have a complex problem or necessary transaction that you cannot resolve through our online channels. To check your recent transactions, please login to Online or Mobile Banking. You may not be aware, but our Online/Mobile Banking channel has exactly the same real time information as our branches and Contact Center.

We strongly recommend that you use MCU’s digital tools and ATMs for self-service banking and 24/7 account access. Through Online Banking and the Mobile App, you can make payments, view balances and transactions, find an ATM, deposit checks using Mobile Deposit and more.

Many members visit our branches or call the Contact Center to conduct basic transactions like deposits, withdrawals, transfers, balances, loan payments, etc. Did you know you can use our ATMs and Online/Mobile Banking to do these transactions? It is simple and straightforward and only takes moments.

It’s easier and quicker to manage your accounts using our digital tools, especially since call wait times may be longer than usual.

It only takes a few minutes to:

  1. 1) Enroll in Online Banking

  2. 2) Download the MCU Mobile App (after enrolling in Online Banking):

    Download on the App Store
     

    Android app on Google Play

ATMs
You can use an MCU ATM to:

  • • Withdraw cash (up to $1,000 daily)

  • • Make an auto or personal loan payment

  • • Pay your Mortgage

  • • Pay your Visa Credit Card

  • • Transfer money between your MCU accounts

  • • Check your account balance

You can also use one of the 30,000 CO-OP Network ATMs nationwide to make a cash withdrawal.

We apologize for any inconvenience this branch closure may cause you and we thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

POSTED: Mar 13, 2020
An Update to our Members on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

March 13, 2020

With all of the uncertainty surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19), MCU is committed to keeping our members informed and updated. We are closely monitoring the daily developments and following the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and local government. We are dedicated to continuing to serve your banking needs during this difficult time.

MCU’s branches are open for business and are operating under normal business hours. If that changes due to a health threat or a request from local government, we will notify you in a timely and transparent manner through email. We will also keep our website, www.nymcu.org, up-to-date with all the latest branch information as well as our social media pages on Facebook (facebook.com/nymcu) and Twitter (@NYMCU_News).

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation evolves and people remain concerned about gathering in public places, we strongly recommend that you use MCU’s digital tools and ATMs for self-service banking and 24/7 account access.

Through NYMCU’s Online Banking and the Mobile App you can make payments, view balances and transactions, find an ATM, deposit checks using Mobile Deposit and more.

It’s easier and quicker to manage your accounts using our digital tools, especially since call wait times may be longer than usual.

It only takes a few minutes to:

  1. 1) Enroll in Online Banking

  2. 2) Download the MCU Mobile App:

    Download on the App Store
     

    Android app on Google Play

During this time, we also want to remind you to stay alert for any scams that might be out there, including fraudulent calls, emails and text messages. MCU will never contact you by phone, email or text to ask you to update your account information or to provide your account number, Personal Identification Number (PIN), Debit or Credit Card Number, password or Social Security Number. If you think there is potential fraud on your account, please call the Contact Center at (212) 693-4900.

The health and safety of our members, employees and communities is of utmost importance to us. We’ll continue to provide you with updates and recommendations so that you may stay informed and be confident that you will be able to conduct your banking without any disruption.

POSTED: Mar 12, 2020
An Update Regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19)

March 12, 2020

We here at Municipal Credit Union (MCU) value the health and safety of our members and employees. We wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that we are closely monitoring the current situation related to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in New York City. In an attempt to help mitigate the spread of the illness, MCU is implementing the following at our branches and offices:

  • • All tellers are being supplied with disposable sanitary gloves in all branch locations.

  • • We are attempting to place Hand Sanitizers in all branch locations.

  • • We are increasing the scheduled cleanings of our branches.

  • • We are communicating information to our employees to try and help them stay healthy or stay home if they are not feeling well.

  • • We will be attempting to limit physical contact with each other and our members as much as possible. Our typical greeting with a handshake will not be extended until the virus is under control, and the official recommendations are updated.

Here are some helpful tips to manage your finances during this time:

  • • You can securely manage your finances 24/7 via MCU’s Online and Mobile Banking app without having to visit a branch. You can view your account balances and history including recent debit card transactions and electronic deposits, like your paycheck. You can also pay bills via MCU’s BillPay, transfer funds between accounts, to other members and other financial institutions, deposit checks using the Mobile Deposit feature within Mobile Banking or apply for a loan.

  • • Take advantage of MCU’s ATM network and the over 30,000 Co-op Network ATMs nationwide.

  • • If you are unable to visit a branch or ATM, your MCU debit card can be used directly at any location that accepts Visa. Where available, you can request cash back on the spot.

  • • Many of our members are choosing to use Digital Banking and our eBranch (Call Center) in place of coming into the branch. Please be aware that our hold times may be slightly longer due to the increased volume.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have also released some helpful information related to the virus.

Here are some tips to stay healthy:

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recommends that you take the same everyday precautions for the Coronavirus that you would take during cold and flu season:

  • • Get your flu shot – it’s not too late. Although it will not protect you from COVID-19, it will help prevent the flu which has similar symptoms to this Coronavirus.

  • • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when sneezing or coughing – do not use your hands.

  • • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

  • • Do not touch your face with unwashed hands.

  • • Stay home when you are sick.

For your reference, here are links you can visit for more information:


MCU will take all necessary steps to continue to serve your needs through this time.

Thank you for being a valued member of Municipal Credit Union.

POSTED: Jan 09, 2020
MCU’s Tips for Sticking to Your Financial Resolutions in 2020

Welcoming in the New Year means taking on new resolutions. If your goals for 2020 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 2020.

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 20, 2019
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 look to the future, 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 well being 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 20, 2019
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: Sep 17, 2019
An MCU Holiday Scam Roundup

Identity thieves and scammers know that the holidays can keep you pretty distracted, and they’re ready to take advantage. In fact, according to a report published by ACI Worldwide, holiday fraud increased by nearly 15 percent just last year!

Don’t let a fraudsters steal the happy out of the holidays. Staying informed is key – check out the scams to watch out for this year!

1. Don’t Get Taken By Donation Scams

The holidays are a great time to give back to your community. But when it comes to making a donation, an intended good deed could put you a dangerous situation. 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 access to and can run off with your personal and financial information.

If you receive an unsolicited email from an organization you don’t recognize asking for a donation, don’t click on it the link. You may unleash dangerous malware on to your device. Instead, it’s best to be skeptical and to go straight to the charity’s website to learn more 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 are a great go-to gift (goodbye, wrapping paper). Recently, many consumers are taking advantage of reputable digital marketplaces that allow for users to sell unwanted gift cards to popular retail stores at discounted rates. It’s a great way to save cash and make sure your loved ones get what they want and need.

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 help protect yourself, do your research! Before purchasing gift cards online (or working with any online retailer), do your homework on the platform or website you are looking to work with and check user reviews. This will help you to understand the terms and conditions of your purchase and ensure that you are working with a reputable vendor that provides quality service.

3. Holiday e-Card Phishing Scams

It’s not uncommon to receive a holiday e-Card 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 e-Cards have become an increasingly common and an often-successful way for scammers to trick you into letting down your defenses. Once 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 protect yourself, 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 phone or tablet can make shopping easy when you’re on-the-go easy, but it can also leave you vulnerable to fraud. To help protect yourself, keep an eye out for phony apps. Once downloaded, these programs can release malware on to your device or lift your personal and financial information stored on the platform for purchases.

The good news is that confidently downloading legitimate and safe apps is easy with just a few simple steps:

Stick to reputable marketplaces when downloading and purchasing apps. These marketplaces have a well-developed Terms of Service policy, FAQ and developer contact information.

• Research the app vendor. Look closely for an app privacy policy, the information made available to advertisers and clear contact information.

• Check the number of app downloads and read the reviews. The more downloads an app has, the more reputable it is. And while even great apps will have some bad reviews, taking a look at what other users have to say can help ensure the app is secure, functional and (most importantly) legitimate.

POSTED: Sep 11, 2019
MCU’s Guide to a Financially Stress-Free Holiday Season

The holidays may be a time for fun and family, but it’s no secret that the “Season of Giving” can also mean overspending and financial anxiety. Entertaining, shopping, and traveling can quickly put a strain on your budget and take the happy right out of “happy holidays”.

The good news: Avoiding holiday financial stress is possible. Check out our easy tips here on how to get started!

1. Create a Budget and Stick to It

It’s all fun and games until your post-holiday bills start to show up. While it’s easy to get carried away during the holidays, setting and sticking to a defined budget will help you stay focused on not breaking the bank. A great way to stay on track is to create a micro budget for each component of your holidays – travel, entertainment, gifts. You can even create a budget for each person on your shopping list. This strategy will keep your budget at the front of your mind at all times.

2. Plan Your Holiday Travel in Advance

There’s no place like home for holidays, but if you’re like a reported 98 million Americans who plan on traveling this season, you could be looking at a pretty steep bill. In fact, last year, Americans expected to spend an average of $930 traveling during this holiday season!

Our advice: Plan ahead. Holiday travelers 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

Life can get pretty hectic this time of year, but leaving your holiday shopping to the last minute is a recipe for a blown budget. Shopping on a tight deadline can leave you much less interested in getting the best price and much more eager to get in and out of stores (and away from the crowds). Sound familiar? We’ve been there.

Start your shopping early. This strategy will give you the time to find the right gifts that are also right for your budget, instead of rushing to 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 ahead of 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 purchases. These codes oftentimes go unnoticed and aren’t well publicized, but this little known trick can go a long way when it comes to this holiday season!

Shoppers should also follow their favorite retailers and brands on social media. These companies are constantly tweeting and posting about great promos and limited offers during the holiday season, which will help you stay up-to-date on great deals.

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 not only set savings aside, to also build your holiday budget throughout the whole year. 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: Sep 10, 2019
Cyber Monday Shopping Safety Tips

If grabbing great deals without even leaving your home sounds like a win-win, you’re in good company. In fact, more than 70 percent of shoppers are gearing up for Cyber Monday this year!

As you prepare for the biggest e-shopping day of the year, it’s important for consumers to stay savvy while making transactions online all holiday season. And while you may think you’re a pro at surfing the web, it may be still be time to brush up on some old safety tips and learn some new ones that will help you make secure transactions on your mobile devices.

Learn more below!

1. Stick to Secure Websites

Nothing take the happy out of the holidays like identity theft. To help protect yourself online, always make sure you’re shopping on a secure website before inputting any financial or personal information, such as a credit card payment.

To make sure a website is encrypted over a secure connection, simply check the URL. Secure websites will begin with “https”. The “s” at the stands for secure and indicates that the website has enabled an SSL (secure socket layer) connection. You can also check for the “lock” icon that will be displayed somewhere in the window of your web browser.

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

Free public Wi-Fi networks can help you avoid eating up dating data while you’re on the go this holiday season. However, these networks should also be used with caution, especially when it comes to access your personal information. This is because unsecured Wi-Fi networks don’t require passwords and can be easily hacked by thieves who can not only gain access to your browser history while you’re on the network, they can also tap into the personal information you entered there.

To play it safe, we recommend only shopping on secure Wi-Fi hotspots that require a password or using your phone’s network data.

3. Steer Clear of Too-Good-To-Be True Deals

Cyber criminals know to that shoppers are on the prowl for great deals and they’re ready to prey on your by impulses by luring consumers with too-good-to-be-true deals that may have you clicking first and asking questions later. Watch out for these offers promising unreal deals, especially when they come in the form emails or text messages. Just clicking on the links in these messages could potentially leave your device vulnerable to phishing software or malware.

4. Update Your Anti-Virus Software

You may have installed anti-virus and other protective software programs when you first got your laptop or other device, but when was the last time you took time to update it? Anti-virus and anti-phishing tools are keys to protecting your devices, but these software programs need to be regularly updated with patches that can protect you from the latest virus and malware. As you gear up for along holiday season of shopping online, now is a great time to update these programs.

Pro tip: Set it and forget it. Many anti-virus software programs have settings that allow users automatically initiate updates when upgrades and patches are available. Take advantage of these features to make sure you’re protecting your electronics all year round.

5. Use Apps Carefully

Shopping on your phone or tablet? Keep an eye out for phony apps. Once downloaded, these programs can release malware on to your device or lift your personal and financial information stored on the platform for purchases.

• Stick to reputable marketplaces when downloading and purchasing apps. These marketplaces have a well-developed Terms of Service policy, FAQ and developer contact information.

• Research the app vendor. Look closely for an app privacy policy, the information made available to advertisers and clear contact information.

• Check the number of app downloads and read the reviews. The more downloads an app has, the more reputable it is. And while even great apps will have some bad reviews, taking a look at what other users have to say can help ensure the app is secure, functional and (most importantly) legitimate.

6. Follow Your Favorite Retailers

Your favorite stores and brands are constantly tweeting and posting about their latest promotions and deals on social media. By following these official accounts, shoppers can stay up-to-date on big sales and act quickly on limited offers. As an added bonus, you’ll be able to shop with confidence knowing that the vendors you are working with and the deals you are taking advantage are legitimate.

7. Enable 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: Aug 30, 2019
Financial Steps to Take after Long-Term Unemployment

Starting a new job after being out of the workforce can be a great feeling. However, it’s actually only really the first step to getting back on your feet. Unemployment, especially long-term unemployment, can come with significant financial implications that can last for months or even years after you’ve settled into your role.

The good news: taking steps early on to create a recovery plan can go a long way. Check out our tips below on how to get started!

1. Take Inventory of Your Financial Situation

Facing your financial reality after a period of unemployment can be daunting, but it’s the first step to making a plan that will get you back on track in a way that works best for you.

The good news is that taking inventory of your finances is pretty simple and something that you can successfully do on your own. Start by going through all of your outstanding bills, bank statements, and credit reports. Think of each of these financial components as puzzle pieces that, when put together, will help you gain full picture of your current situation.

2. Create a New Budget

Your financial situation will change many times throughout your life and your budget will have to adjust as well.

You may have had a budget before unemployment and even a new (and leaner) budget while you weren’t working, but neither of these spending plans will work for you now. It’s time to go back to the drawing board and create a budget that will account for your financial reality. By creating a breakdown of your current expenses, income, goals, and debts, you’ll be able identify areas that need the most attention, cut back on wasteful spending, adapt quickly to financial emergencies, and plan ahead.

Learn more about how to create a budget that can work for you here.

3. Prioritize High Interest Rates

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that high interest debt is expensive and it only gets more expensive as the months go by. To help combat these growing costs, prioritize these debts, which usually come in the form of high-interest credit cards and short-term loans, in your spending plan.

However, it’s important to note that prioritizing debt repayments doesn’t mean paying off one bill at a time and ignoring the rest. Borrowers should always work to make the minimum payment on each debt in order to help keep their account and credit score in good standing.

To learn more about strategically taking on debt, check out our tips here.

4. Start to Rebuild Your Emergency Fund

It can be tough to focus on rebuilding your savings when you’re catching up on your financial obligations and faced with the opportunity to make essential purchases you’ve been holding off on (such as home repairs or appliance upgrades). However, if the realities of unemployment teach anything, it’s the importance of having an emergency fund when faced with unexpected expenses. Not only do these savings serve as a safety net, it can keep you from resorting to taking on high-interest debt or making desperate financial decisions in tough times.

Start saving as early as possible. A fully funded emergency fund is completely separate from your other savings and makes up about 4-6 months of your total living expenses – so it’s no surprise they take a lot of time and planning to create!

5. Be patient and set SMART goals.

Turning around a tough financial situation takes time. Expecting quick fixes and immediate gratification will not only leave you disappointed, it may derail your progress. To help stay on track as you work to get back on financial track, it’s important to set goals that are “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 conditions, but under your current circumstances as well.

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.

POSTED: Aug 29, 2019
MCU’s Six Things to Know: Negotiating a Car’s Sale Price

In the market for your next car? Sitting down to negotiate the terms of your purchase with a seller or dealership can be tough to navigate. Luckily, there are a few easy steps every auto shopper can take to make sure that they’re getting a fair deal for the right car.

Check out our tips below on how to get started!

1. Come Prepared

To successfully negotiate any purchase, a buyer has to be confident about two important things: their budget and a fair purchase price. That means that you’ve got a lot of homework to do before you can sit down and talk turkey with a salesperson.

Whether you’ve decided on a used or new car, researching the make and model will not only help you to understand its fair market value, you’ll also be able to learn more about ongoing offers for similar cars in your area, and understand potential expenses down the road. To get started, check out auto buying apps and online resources such as TrueCar, Enterprise and Kelley Blue Book that can help you stay focused, narrow down your search, and feel confident in your price point when it comes time to make an offer.

Not sure what your budget should look like? It’s generally recommended to keep the total cost of all cars at or under 25 percent of your household’s total income. However, as the old saying goes –less is more. The less you spend on your car, the more opportunities you’ll have to meet financial obligations and work toward long-term goals. Consider these financial obligations carefully when building your budget. Once you have your price range in mind – stick to it!

2. Don’t Shop with your Emotions

The car-buying process can be an emotional experience that can leave you feeling excited, nervous, and frustrated all at the same time. Auto dealerships and salespeople aren’t just aware of this emotional rollercoaster, they’re pros at using it to their advantage. They may try to pressure you into a sale by telling you that an offer is expiring or call frequently with exciting promotions to entice you into believing that you’re getting a great deal, even when the price is still over your price point.

Don’t take the bait! Stretching your finances to make a purchase work may feel great in the moment but will only cause stress down the road. Negotiate carefully and be ready to walk away if the numbers don’t match. With a little bit of patience, you’ll be sure to find the right car.

3. Discuss Each Aspect of the Sale

Buying a car is a long-term investment that can come with an expensive price tag. To help navigate this expense, many buyers will explore financing and other programs. Don’t forget to discuss each of these options carefully! As you negotiate a deal for your new car, ask about interest rates, seasonal rebates, extended warranties and maintenance coverage, and the trade-in value of your current vehicle. Each of these conversations should be a negotiation that will help to shape your car-buying process into a positive financial decision.

4. Negotiate the Total Price

As mentioned above, there are a lot of figures, percentages, and financial considerations that go into an auto purchase. As you begin to discuss these expenses with a dealership or salesperson, the actual total cost of a vehicle can start to become ambiguous. Don’t stay confused out of politeness. Instead, ask the seller or salesperson to only discuss the “out-the-door” cost of the vehicle, including all of the fees and taxes you’ll be responsible for when it comes time to sign on the dotted line. Gaining clarity early on is a great way to stay focused during your search and confident in your purchase.

5. Know the Best Times to Follow Up

The truth is that negotiations can go on for a while. If you can’t negotiate a price you feel comfortable with initially, it’s best to walk away. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t follow up to see if there are any new deals you can take advantage of. The most effective times to do this include:

• On Saturday and Sunday evening. Dealerships rely heavily on these days to make the most sales. If they’re having a slow weekend, they may feel more willing to take your offer.

• The end of the month.
Salespeople and managers are often under pressure to meet sales quotas each month. If it doesn’t look like they’re going to meet their goals, they may be willing to let a vehicle go at a more competitive price.

• The fall months. Next year’s models tend to arrive in the early fall, which means that dealers are going to have to move their old inventory. That means great deals of brand new cars that just so happen to be last year’s model!

6. Remember to Keep Your Options Open

There are a lot of cars out there that can fit your needs and your budget. There are also a lot of dealerships in your area that are looking to make a deal. As you shop for your next car, remember to keep an open mind and to work with multiple dealerships. The wider your search, the sooner you’re sure to make a deal.

POSTED: Aug 27, 2019
Let’s Talk About Mortgage Consolidation

The mortgage market has changed a lot in the last few years. Interest rates are low and that could mean big opportunities for homeowners looking to restructure and consolidate their mortgage debt.

So how does it work? A mortgage consolidation happens when a homeowner takes out a brand new, and more favorable, home loan that is large enough to pay off the current balances for all of their higher interest mortgages (including HELOCs or home equity loans) in one payment. Once these balances are paid off, the homeowner now has a new mortgage, along with new (lower) interest rate, terms and pay schedule that will work to their advantage.

These great deals can be made even better when homeowners consider their personal financial situations. Seemingly small changes such as an improved credit score or increased monthly income can help them to qualify for best interest rates and mortgage products available on the market, making a consolidation even more lucrative in the long run!

Some great long- and short-term benefits come with a mortgage consolidation. Check them out below!

  • Enjoy Paying Less in Interest. Two mortgages means two interest rates – and that means you’re spending a lot of unnecessary cash. By consolidating your mortgages, you’ll only be taking on one payment each month, saving hundred or even thousands of dollars in interest over time. As an added bonus, borrowers who have worked to boost their credit score over the years will qualify for more competitive rates offered by lenders.

  • Eliminate the Risk of a Variable-Rate Mortgage. It's easy to understand why many homebuyers (especially first-time homebuyers) will end up with a variable-rate mortgage. These loans often have very low initial monthly payments that can be enticing to anybody looking for a great deal. However, as the financial landscape changes over time, so will your rates, which means writing bigger checks to your mortgage provider and facing unpredictable monthly expenses.
    The good news: even if both of your mortgages have a variable rate, you can still consolidate them into one fixed-rate mortgage, which means your monthly payments will never be a surprise.

  • Pay Off Debt Faster. Nobody likes having debt handing over their head. As you plan to consolidate your mortgages, consider doing so with a home loan that has a shorter term agreement. A shorter loan will mean larger monthly payments, but it will also mean big savings in interest over time, while also working aggressively toward owning your home free and clear. A shorter loan is an especially viable option for borrowers who have seen a healthy increase in their monthly income and are comfortable taking on larger payments.
  • Don’t forget to do the math! A mortgage consolidation can be a smart financial move, but it’s not for everybody. As mentioned above, in order to consolidate your home loans, you’ll need to take out a brand new mortgage. That means you’ll have to pay closing costs and loan processing fees that can add up to thousands of dollars. Before you go ahead with a consolidation, it’s important to sit down and crunch the numbers to make sure that these upfront costs are worth the long-term savings. Be sure you understand both all of these upfront expenses, as well as your new interest rate and the terms of your loan.

    For more helpful information regarding homeownership and the home-buying process, visit our MCU Advice and Planning section here.

    POSTED: Aug 15, 2019
    MCU’s Energy-Saving Tips for the Fall and Winter

    Cooler temperatures are fast approaching and that means your wallet could be feeling the burn. According to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), New Yorkers can spend as much as 60 percent of their energy usage on heat alone during the fall and winter months.

    The good news? You don’t have to wear earmuffs in the house to stay comfortable without blowing your budget. Making small changes can go a long way in improving your home’s energy efficiency. Check out our tips below!

    1. Air Seal and Insulate Your Home

    If you’ve noticed a draft lately, this tip is for you. Air leaks in your home’s outer walls, roof, windows, doors, and other openings – allow for heat to easily escape and cause your heating system to work harder. To help your home retain heat better, add insulation to your attic and cover up any openings under doors and around windows. If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, close the damper when it’s not in use.

    As an added bonus, these small changes won’t just help your home use energy more efficiently, they’ll also help to reduce outside noise and improve humidity control throughout your home.

    2. 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 out of the house or asleep can reduce your energy bill by approximately 10 percent each month.

    The savings are great but returning to a cool home can be less than appealing. To help, homeowners can invest in a programmable thermostat to easily get into this money-saving practice without compromising convenience or comfort. Homeowners can program these devices to automatically adjust the temperature of their home to complement their work and sleep habits, causing your heating system to use less energy when you won’t notice and adjust your home’s temperature to more comfortable levels when it counts.

    3. Use Your Curtains to Your Advantage

    Don’t underestimate the power of natural lighting! Opening your curtains during the day won’t just brighten up your living space and reduce the need of extra lights, it also helps your home receive a bit of extra heat. On the other hand, closing your curtains at night will serve as an extra layer of insulation that will keep some heat from escaping.

    4. Move Furniture Away from Vents

    Ready for a new look? Rearranging your living space isn’t just about making a change, it could help you heat your home more efficiently. Large pieces of furniture can block heating vents throughout a home, preventing warm air from effectively circulating and causing unsuspecting homeowners to bump their thermostats up to compensate. Go through your space with a discerning eye, you may be surprised at what you find!

    5. Maintain Your Heating System

    Routine maintenance is important when it comes to keeping your heating unit in top shape and maintaining energy efficiency. This can be as easy as changing out filters that have collected debris, dust and dirt over time, which will effectively reduce efficiency and airflow.

    Units should also be regularly inspected by a professional. These inspections can reduce the long-term costs of repair by identifying any damage or faults that could be effecting the unit’s efficiency and functionality. While small issues will not impact performance or cost at first, they can become major headaches down the road – wasting power and even ultimately causing catastrophic damage to the unit.

    For more MCU Advice and Planning Articles, click here.

    POSTED: Jul 29, 2019
    Budget-Friendly Tips for Back-to-School Shopping

    Summer, we barely knew thee.

    It’s back-to-school season and that means fresh haircuts, new class schedules, and shopping – a lot of it. According to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation (NRF), families spent an average of $685 to get each of their children first-day-of-school ready last year. If that sounds like a lot, it is. In fact thirty-two percent of parents surveyed admitted to overspending.

    Striking a balance between getting your kids excited for a new school year and sticking to your budget can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. Planning ahead, getting creative, and making small changes to your school shopping routine can go a long way. Check out some of our tips below on how to get started!

    1. Review, Reuse, and Recycle Your Supply Inventory

    Have you ever opened up a closet only to find a stack of notebooks or a box of pencils you bought on sale and forgot about? We’ve been there.

    Your child’s school supply list may be long, but chances are you already have at least some of the required items on hand. Before you load up a shopping cart at your local supply shop, take a look around your home and review your inventory – you may be surprised at what you find.

    It’s also important to remember that you don’t have to buy a full set of new supplies just because it’s a new school year. Items like backpacks and binders can easily be used again. And while Kids can be reluctant to reuse old school supplies (even if they still look like new), parents can suggest fun DIY craft projects to help give these items fresh and fun looks.

    2. Shop with Gift Cards

    Many consumers are taking advantage of reputable digital marketplaces that allow for users to sell unwanted gift cards to popular retail stores at discounted rates. If you’re planning a big shop at one of these major stores, using one of these gift cards will mean automatic savings! We recommend keeping an eye on upcoming sales. Pairing your gift card savings with big discounts is a great way to stretch your budget.

    Before purchasing gift cards online (or working with any online retailer), be sure to research the platform or website you are looking to work with and check user reviews. This will help you to understand the terms and conditions of your purchase and ensure that you are working with a reputable vendor that provides quality service.

    3. Check out Your Local Grocery Store

    Saving big on back-to-school shopping can be as easy as walking down the aisles of your local supermarket.

    Big box supply stores have been gearing up for back-to-school season for months. It’s when they make a significant chunk of their annual profit. So if you’re planning on making a visit, prepare for marked-up prices and long lines. On the other hand, your local grocery store likely stocks a small section of school and office supplies year round. This inventory is often overlooked by shoppers and is typically priced to sell. Check it out the next time you’re doing your weekly shop!

    4. Dress for a Successful Budget

    According to the NRF, parents will spend more than $230 on new clothes for their children before starting the school year. When it comes to outfitting your kids for a new school year, it’s very important to remember that they not only grow quickly, they’re very tough on their clothes (grass stains, much?).

    To help keep your budget in check and your kids in great gear, consider doing the bulk of your back-to-school shop in late September when retail chains offer better deals than they do during the summer seasonal sales. Parents should also consider creating a annual budget for their children’s’ wardrobes, instead of spending a lump sum upfront. Staggering your expenses will help you make sure that your children’s clothes can keep up with their growth spurts and style preferences.

    Luckily, this strategy can work for children who need to wear a uniform as well. Because most school uniforms are made up of basic clothing pieces (such as khaki pants and white polo shirts), parents can often avoid purchasing these items through the school at marked up prices, and shop for them at different retailers offering competitive prices.

    5. Shop for Gently Used or Refurbished Electronics

    Students, especially those in junior high school and high school, need more than just fresh notebooks and pens these days. They may be required to purchase an expensive graphing calculator or have the option to bring a tablet or laptop to school. A purchase like this may be a great tool to your child, but it’s also a significant financial undertaking.

    To help mitigate this expense, consider buying gently used or refurbished electronics. You may be wary about purchasing a second-hand laptop or tablet, but they often work like new, while costing hundreds of dollars less. And when you consider how often teenagers lose and break their gadgets, this alternative purchase is a win-win.

    6. Scout for Sales –They’re Everywhere!

    It’s 2019 and there are more ways to find great deals on your back-to-school shop than clipping coupons in your local newspaper. Sales are everywhere and keeping track of ongoing offers from your favorite retailers is as easy as subscribing to email alerts or following your favorite brands on social media.

    POSTED: Jul 16, 2019
    Debunking Credit Score Myths


    It’s no secret that a good credit score is important. It can help you get approved for lower interest rates on loans, rent an apartment, and even receive better pricing on insurance. However, when it comes to getting and maintaining a good credit score, there’s a lot of information out there for consumers and not all of it is accurate.

    To help our members take the best and most effective steps towards establishing good credit, we’re debunking some of the most common myths and misinformation here.

    Myth #1: Paying off debt immediately removes that debt from your credit report.

    The truth is that your credit report is a snapshot of your credit accounts, collection items and public records for the past 7-10 years. This includes late or defaulted payments, collection accounts, discharges, bankruptcies, credit inquiries and even child support obligations. Paying off your debt will give you the freedom to make future financial plans and set goals, but it can’t eliminate your credit history and how it’s documented on your credit report. Only time can do that.

    Myth #2: Every time your credit report is pulled, your card is negatively affected.

    Not all credit inquiries are created equal. There are two different ways to pull your credit – they’re known as “hard” pulls and “soft” pulls. A hard credit pull typically occurs when a lender is considering your formal application for a loan or credit card. This type of credit pull, which can negatively affect your credit score in a very small way (about five points), will help the lender formally review your credit history and assess your credit worthiness.

    However, a soft credit pull won’t affect your credit score at all. You may not have heard of a soft credit pull before, but you’ve likely encountered them many times, maybe even several times a month. This type of inquiry usually occurs when you check your FICO credit score or a lender pre-approves you for a new line of credit or product via mail or email.

    Myth #3: You only need to check your credit report if you’ve been flagged for potential fraud.

    Your financial institution, credit card company, or utility provider may alert you to potential fraud on your account in certain situations, but you’ll still need to do your part in ensuring that your credit history is accurate and in good standing. To do this, consumers are encourage to check their credit reports at least once a year. This can help you spot errors and potential fraud, which may be bringing your score down. You can report any suspicious activities to the credit bureau for further investigation and correction.

    There are three credit bureaus – Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. Consumers can order one free report from each bureau once a year online from annualcreditreport.com, which is the only authorized website that offers free credit reports. Have your information ready to go – you’ll need to provide your name, address, social security number, and date of birth to verify your identity to receive your report.

    Myth #4: If a married couple jointly applies for a loan, the financial institution will only consider the better credit score of the two.

    Being married means sharing nearly everything. Unfortunately this rule of thumb doesn’t apply to your great credit score– and that can really affect your ability to get a joint loan.

    When evaluating a joint loan application, a lender may make their decision based on the lower of the two credit scores, opposed to the higher one. This means that if one spouse is struggling with their credit, you’ll be looking at a higher interest rate or less competitive terms than you initially anticipated.

    This practice may vary depending on the lender or the type of loan applied being consider. However, when some borrowers are faced with this situation, they make the decision to not put the spouse with the lower credit score on the loan application. However, if you do choose to go down this route, your lender won’t be able to consider your spouse’s income when determining your eligibility.

    Myth #5: The best way to improve your credit score is to close your credit cards after paying off the balance.

    Don’t close your credit cards! If this sounds strange, we can explain.

    Approximately 30 percent of your credit score is made up of your credit utilization, which refers to your total credit balance, compared to the total line of credit available to you. For example, if you’re using $1,000 out of a $15,000 line of credit, you’ll be in better shape than somebody who is using $1,000 out of a $5,000 line of credit.

    Moral of the story: Keep your credit cards and lines of credit open, but leave them out of reach to avoid impulse purchases. Many consumers who practice this strategy will put one utility bill or small payment on each card regularly simply to keep the card active without driving up their debt.

    Myth #6: You only need to check your credit score with one credit bureau.

    As mentioned above, there are three credit bureaus that will report on your credit history. And contrary to popular belief, they don’t all report the same findings. They won’t even report identical credit scores.

    Take advantage of each report so that you can spot errors. You’ll not only be able to feel confident about reviewing and identifying any potential fraud or mistakes associated with your accounts, you’ll also understand your median credit score, which is the score any financial institution or lender will consider when evaluating a loan application.

    POSTED: Jul 15, 2019
    Six Ways to Avoid an Email Scam

    Email scams are on the rise. Last year the IRS reported a 60 percent increase in bogus email schemes that target victims for their money or sensitive data. As consumers have become smarter about identifying fraud, thieves have too, as they are constantly changing up their strategies to confuse and distract you.

    The first step to protecting yourself and your finances is to stay informed and alert. Check out our tips on how to spot red flags and steer clear of email scams.

    1. Don’t trust unsolicited emails.

    This is one rule of thumb that is both effective and easy to follow. Always be wary of unsolicited communications, especially when it’s from an organization or person you’ve never worked with before. The internet offers scammers a cloak of anonymity. They may use convincing images and language to gain your trust, but you can never be 100 percent sure.

    2. Never provide your personal information.

    And we mean, never. Most commonly, scammers like to put their victims in emotional situations that could dull their reasoning skills. These scams may look like the following:


    • a. A financial institution, government agency, or other authoritative organization looking to confirm or collect your information. These emails may even contain portions of your personal information that they already have such as your mailing address or phone number to appear legitimate.

      b. A utility or credit card account in your name is in default and you need to make a payment immediately, or provide your bank account information. If you fail to comply immediately, you will face legal action.

      c. A sweepstakes or competition notifying you that you’ve won a large sum of money. The organization needs your bank account number in order to make a deposit, or you need to make a deposit payment before your winnings can be released to you.

    Don’t take the bait. Remember that a government organization or financial institution will never contact you unsolicited to ask for your personal or financial information, even if they are claiming an error on your part. They will also never make legal threats or use threatening language. Similarly, a legitimate sweepstakes will never require you to make a payment to receive your prize.

    3. Look for errors and misspellings.

    Always read emails very carefully. One of the most telling and common signs of a scam is when there are misspellings, punctuation errors, or poorly worded phrases riddled throughout the copy.

    Another telltale indicator of a fraudulent email can be found in the logo and images used. Compare the logo in the email to the one on the company’s website or on a piece of mail that you’ve received from them. While companies may use different versions of their logo for different types of communications, you can check inconsistencies in the color or if the image is stretched or warped.

    4. Pay close attention to links.

    No matter how tempting an offer is, never click on a link sent by a person or business you don’t recognize or trust. It could open dangerous malware that will compromise all of the information on your device, including login usernames and passwords and financial accounts.

    If you’re using a laptop or desktop, check each link and hyperlink by hovering your mouse over it. This will reveal the actual URL attached to the copy. If you don’t recognize the website or if it is unsecured (does not have an “https” in the address bar), don’t click on it and delete the email immediately.

    5. If it seems too good to be true, it is.

    Some scammers aren’t looking to steal your identity or gain access to your bank accounts – they just want to make a quick (and dishonest) buck. To do this, they’ll often send victims misleading offers for cheap travel deals, discounted concert tickets or tempting retail offers. In some instances, you’ll make a payment in full upfront only to never receive the goods you were promised. In other scenarios, you may actually receive the items bought, but then find yourself hit with massive fees and surcharges hidden in the fine print.

    Either way, stay smart about all offers on the internet. If a deal seems too good to be true, assume that it is and walk away.

    6. When in doubt, make a phone call.

    If you’re seeing potential signs of fraud in an email that you’ve received, but you’re still feeling unsure about whether to respond or not, play it safe and call the organization or agency. Do not contact them through the email address you received the correspondence from or call them using a phone number featured in the email.

    Instead, call the phone number listed on the official website of the organization. Speaking with a representative won’t just give you piece of mind or clarity, it can also potentially alert the company or organization to a scam targeting its clients or customers.

    POSTED: Jul 12, 2019
    Tips and Tricks for Selling Your Home in a Buyer’s Market

    If you’re serious about selling your home in a buyer’s market, it’s going to take more than a “For Sale By Owner” sign on your front lawn. Properties are sitting on the market longer, prices are dropping, and offers are less competitive than they might have been even a year earlier.

    We’ve come up with some great advice to help sellers navigate a more challenging real estate market. Check them out here!

    1. Hire a Great Real Estate Agent

    A real estate agent is one of your most important resources during the process of selling your home – especially when the market isn’t in your favor. These professionals can help sellers understand the value of their home, enlist strategies to motivate buyers, strategically list and advertise the property, and can even identify small changes and upgrades that can bring a home up to snuff on the current housing market. Even during a seller’s market, agents can be a huge help by assisting with paperwork, screening potential buyers, and hosting open houses.

    Remember that not all real estate agents are created equal, and in a market when selling your home is a bit trickier than normal, choosing the right professional to assist you is extremely important. Before agreeing to let an agent list your property, ask them about their knowledge of the neighborhood, their marketing strategies, how often they work with homes similarly priced to your own, and how they like to communicate with clients. Additionally, don’t forget to ask about a realtor’s commission fee early on, this expense can vary for each professional but many will be willing to negotiate.


    2. Make Small Upgrades and Repairs

    With more properties to choose from, buyers are feeling picky. And while you may think your home is in great shape, the truth is that you’ve probably grown used to some of its more tired features that could have a potential buyer thinking twice.

    Ask your realtor to make a few suggestions on where your home could use some extra attention. It may seem counterintuitive to spend money fixing up a home you’re leaving, but small updates can make a big difference in motivating a buyer, especially one who doesn’t want to be bothered to make changes once they have the keys. Freshly painted rooms, a healthy looking lawn, and new lighting and plumbing fixtures are among some of the most common budget-friendly upgrades that both have a great return on investment, while brightening up the look and feel of your space.

    3. Stage Your Space

    Becoming a homeowner is all about possibilities, but it’s tough for a buyer to realize the potential of a home when rooms are cluttered or decorated with items that are to someone else’s taste. Luckily, nudging a buyer’s imagination can be as simple as clearing your space. Start with organizing and storing your clutter, remove unnecessary furniture, and deep clean your home before an open house or professional photographs.

    Be sure to maximize the space and lighting in each room. If you’re working with smaller rooms or tight spaces, you may even want to work with a professional stager. This is a professional who will help you to rent furniture and design a space to showcase the functionality and comfort of a home.

    4. Consider Sweetening the Deal

    When it comes to closing the deal on a property, both sellers and buyers need to be ready to negotiate. The good news: If you’re wary about dropping the price of your home, you can sweeten the deal in more creative and affordable ways.

    Buyers, especially first-time homebuyers, may feel overwhelmed by all of the costs and fees associated with the home-buying process. Offering to take on a few of these expenses, such as the cost of a home inspection, may only actually cost you about $1,000 (a small expense compared to the price tag on your home) but can go a long way with getting a potential buyer on board. Sellers can also help cover some of the closing costs, offer to leave some appliances or furniture behind, or even provide an allowance for repairs or upgrades to the buyer.

    For more helpful information on how to navigate the home-buying process, visit our MCU Advice and Planning section here.

    POSTED: Jul 05, 2019
    MCU’s Tips for First-Time Homebuyers this Summer

    In the market for your first home? We’re here to help. Check out some of the great tips our MCU Mortgage Team has put together for first-time homebuyers!

    1. Get Pre-approved for Your Mortgage

    Shopping for a home can feel like a contact sport: You have to move fast or you’ll get pushed aside by a more aggressive buyer. This is where a mortgage pre-approval comes in handy. A pre-approval is a formal estimation of how much you, as a potential homebuyer, are qualified to borrow.

    Having this document in your metaphorical back pocket can help set the direction and pace of your home search, more easily secure a real estate agent, and most importantly – motivate sellers.

    2. Location, Location, Location

    It’s the first rule in real estate, but what does it really mean? A home’s proximity to public transportation and good schools is important. However, where you choose to buy may also determine how financially ready you are to become a homeowner.

    The tristate area has some of the highest average purchase prices in the nation. Combined with the realities that there are no mortgage products that accept a zero down payment and closing costs may run you about five percent of the home’s total value, you may find yourself having to do more planning and saving than you initially anticipated.

    Don’t forget to consider taxes! The annual taxes for a home in the New York area can vary dramatically between county, towns, and city limits. And while you may be among the many homeowners in New York that qualify for STAR property tax reduction, you’ll still need to closely research the areas you’re interested in to ensure you’ll be able to afford this reoccurring financial commitment each year.

    3. Co-ops Vs. Condos: Know the Difference

    If you’re on the search for a home across the five boroughs, chances are you’ve come across a lot of co-ops and condos. These properties may look identical on the surface – both have a board and monthly fees – but there are actually some big differences that can affect your experience as both a buyer and a homeowner.

    Not knowing the unique details of these property types ahead of time can lead to buyer’s remorse. From the caveats of ownership to monthly expenses and taxes, potential buyers can learn more about differences between co-ops and condos here.

    4. Find Your Dream Team

    As you become more serious about becoming a homeowner, it’s important to assemble a team of professionals who will advocate for you and your needs throughout the process. This includes a mortgage professional, real estate agent, home inspector, tax accountant, and real estate attorney.

    These professionals can make or break your home-buying experience, so it’s important to do your homework. We recommend researching reviews on Yelp and other community boards to get the best idea about how communicative, responsive, helpful, and efficient a professional is across the board, not just in one or two experiences.

    For more helpful information on how to navigate the home-buying process, visit our MCU Advice and Planning section here.

    POSTED: Jun 28, 2019
    Four Steps to Take Before You Invest

    Investing your money is an important step to building long-term financial wealth. However, if you’re feeling hesitant, it’s understandable – no matter how you’re planning to invest, parting with a large chunk of savings is a risk. And while the benefits can be great, it’s also a financial move that will almost certainly require you to change the way you manage your money and make important decisions about future goals and plans.

    You may never feel fully ready to start investing, but taking the steps below can help you be confident and successful as you plan for the future of your finances.

    1. Make a plan for your debt.

    Investing is a great way to plan for your financial future. However, before you can look ahead and put funds towards an investment portfolio that will benefit you later on, it’s important to make sure you’re successfully managing current financial responsibilities, including your debt.

    Being debt-free, especially when it comes to student loans, can feel like a tall order. However, you should have a realistic and manageable plan in place that will help you pay down these debts as quickly and effectively as possible. To start, focus on paying off payday loans, title loans and high-interest credit card loans. They’re typically guilty of costing you the most in the long run.

    For more information on how to strategically pay down debt, check out our tips here.

    2. Create an Emergency Fund

    Investors – especially young investors – tend to be aggressive. This means that because they can earn higher dividends through stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, they’ll direct most of their money into their investment portfolio, opposed to a traditional savings account. This investment style is common, but it also doesn’t leave a lot of cash on hand that can be easily accessed in the event of an emergency. Before you open a portfolio, remember to build an emergency fund that you can easily access at any time.

    A general rule of thumb is to set aside three to six 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. Remember, that as your financial responsibilities change over time, you’ll need to reevaluate whether you’ve saved enough for a rainy day.

    3. Participate in an Employer-Sponsored Retirement Program

    You may have big ideas for retirement when you start investing, but what happens if your plans need to change over the years? For example, you may find yourself needing cash for an emergency, a child’s education, or even a new home.

    When it comes to safeguarding your financial health in your golden years, you can never be too over prepared and putting all of your retirement eggs in one basket can be a big mistake.

    Because of this, it’s important to have a supplemental plan ready to go. The best way to do this is to participate in an employer sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b). These plans are especially helpful because your company will often match your contribution, 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.

    If you’re already participating in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, take time to meet with your employer’s benefits manager about how you can increase or optimize your contributions to better prepare you for the future.

    4. Decide What Your Next Big Goals Are

    You may be financially ready to allocate funds toward an investment portfolio, but do you know why you’re investing? What are your goals? Do you want to buy a house in the next five years? Use dividends to pay off annual expenses? Save for retirement in 30 years?

    How you want to use your money down the road will play a big role in how you choose the types of investments that will serve you best. This is also a big question that a financial advisor or wealth manager will ask when they help you create a plan for your investments. Knowing how you want to use your money will give you and a financial professional the first tools you’ll need in making decisions about how to set up and manage your portfolio.

    POSTED: Jun 26, 2019
    A Guide to Your Home-Buying Dream Team

    For many, becoming a homeowner is a lifelong dream, but the process can sometimes feel like a nightmare. The paperwork can be complicated, the financing can be confusing, and nuances can feel endless. The good news: You don’t have to go it alone. There are great professionals out there who can help you throughout your home-buying journey to ensure that you’re choosing a home that both meets your needs and is a great investment for you and your family.

    We like to call these professionals the Home-Buying Dream Team! And together, their unique skills and knowledge will prove invaluable during your search. Learn more about who should be on your Dream Team roster here:

    1. Mortgage Professional

    Getting approved for a mortgage can take both time and (a lot) of paperwork. So, it’s no surprise that meeting with a mortgage professional should be your first order of business as you start your home-buying process (and build your Dream Team). These professionals will not only help you understand all of the requirements and complicated details of a mortgage, they can walk you through what to expect during the home-buying process, discuss the upcoming expenses you’ll need to prepare for, and help you understand how much mortgage you can potentially afford.

    You should also ask for a mortgage pre-approval. This is an important document that states how much you, as a potential homebuyer, are qualified to borrow from a particular lender. A pre-approval can be extremely helpful as you start your process – it can help you narrow your search, set a budget, obtain a real estate agent, and even motivate sellers.

    2. Real Estate Agent

    It may be easy to browse properties online and visit open houses on weekends, but it won’t replace a real estate agent. A real estate agent is a huge asset as you search for your new home – they offer knowledge of the current real estate market, prescreen properties, ask tough questions about a home’s condition, and help with negotiations.

    Remember, while the homes you’re interested in may be represented by an agent, you still need to hire your own to represent you and cater to your needs. The role of a seller’s agent is solely to sell the property at the best possible price, not help you make a smart investment.

    Check out our helpful tips on how to hire a real estate agent here.

    3. Home Inspector

    The first rule in home buying: Never purchase a home without an inspection. You could find yourself making an expensive mistake and taking on many unnecessary headaches.

    A home inspector’s job is to help a buyer fully understand the ins-and-outs of their potential new home. They will check for safety issues, pests (such as termites), and the current condition of the home’s systems, such as the plumbing, heating and electrical wiring. These findings won’t just help you make the final decision in going ahead with your purchase – it can give you more bargaining power during your negotiations with the seller and forecast future expenses you’ll need to prepare for now.

    4. Real Estate Attorney

    Like many states, New York requires that an attorney is present during a home closing. However, it’s important to choose an attorney who specializes in real estate law and can advocate for you best throughout your home-buying process in the best ways possible.

    Throughout this entire process your attorney’s responsibilities may include assisting in the title examination and insurance paperwork, drafting a formal written agreement for the sale of the home, helping buyers avoid common legal issues that arise during the purchase of a home, and assist in the closing portion of the transaction.

    Pro Tip: Research, Research, Research

    Your Dream Team can make or break your home-buying experience, so it’s important to do your homework before you employ anybody’s services. Doing the legwork now will ensure that you’ll be able to successfully build a team of professionals that will help you achieve your dream of being a homeowner. Ask friends and family for recommendations and research professionals on community boards to get the best idea about how communicative, responsive, helpful, and efficient a professional is across the board, not just in one or two experiences.

    For more helpful information on how to navigate the home-buying process, visit our MCU Advice and Planning section here.

    POSTED: Jun 18, 2019
    Hang up on Social Security Administration Spoofing Calls

    Telephone scams are on the rise and they’re victimizing more New Yorkers than ever before.

    Most recently, the NYPD has been warning consumers to stay on the alert for phone scams claiming to be from the Social Security Administration and other trusted government agencies. These scams are simple, sophisticated, and highly effective. In the early months of 2019 alone, New Yorkers have reported losses totaling $2 million!

    Staying informed is the key to protecting your personal and financial information. Learn more about how to spot and avoid these scams below.

    How It Works:

    Thieves posing as representatives from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and other agencies are calling and threatening victims with arrest or legal action, claiming improper or illegal activity on their Social Security account, unpaid back taxes or other legal and financial trouble. These callers are known to be aggressive and will intimidate their victims into providing personal and financial information in order to resolve the alleged issue.

    In many of these cases, scammers will claim to be a police officer or law enforcement official threatening legal action. Victims are told that they will be arrested and/or their assets will be frozen if they don’t comply with certain demands. To reinforce these threats, they may even hang up and call again from a different number claiming to be NYPD, FBI, or New York State Police personnel.

    In other incidents, scammers switch tactics and say that they want to help an individual activate a suspended Social Security number.

    In the past, savvy consumers may have been able to easily spot these schemes just by looking at their caller ID and spotting a restricted or suspicious phone number. Not anymore. More and more phone scammers are reported to now engineer phone calls so that they now appear to be coming from the actual Social Security hotline or other agency’s number. This is known as spoofing.

    What You Should Do

    Receiving one of these phone calls can be frightening – don’t panic! The following steps can help you steer clear of a phone scam:

    • • Know that while SSA employees do contact citizens by phone for customer-service purposes, they will never threaten you with legal actions if you fail to provide information.


    • • If you receive one of these calls, hang up immediately. If you have concerns and want to verify whether you have any ongoing business with the SSA, call the agency directly at (800) 772-1213


    • • Report suspicious calls to the SSA Office of the Inspector General by calling (800) 269-0271 or submit a report on the OIG website. Victims are also encouraged to report the incident with their local NYPD precinct.

    POSTED: Jun 04, 2019
    MCU’s Money-Smart Tips for Recent Grads

    If you’ve recently graduated college, congratulations!

    The ink on your diploma may have just dried, but we know that you’ve already got a lot of big plans for the future. As you work toward your goals, don’t forget that now is also a great time to pay attention to your finances.

    Not sure how to get started? Our money-smart tips will help you manage your expenses, plan ahead and create great habits that will last a lifetime!

    1. Start with a Budget

    No two financial situations are the same – especially when it comes to being a recent grad. Whether you’re living at home, renting your first apartment or going on to get another degree, an effective budget is always essential to balancing long-term goals and everyday expenses.

    No matter what your new financial situation looks like, a budget is a great tool that will help you to stay in financially great shape throughout your life. By creating a breakdown of spending, income, goals, and debts, you’ll be able to identify wasteful spending, adapt quickly to financial emergencies, and plan ahead.

    Learn more about how to create a budget that can work for you here.

    2. Make a Plan for Your Student Debt

    Ignoring your loans won’t make them go away. In fact, your student debt will stick with you until it’s paid off no matter what, even if you file for bankruptcy.

    Even if your budget feels tight, make your student debt a priority. Put a plan in place to move your finances in the right direction as quickly as possible – this may include setting up automatic payments, or taking advantage of programs such as the Income Based Repayment Plan or Income Contingent Repayment Plan. These strategies will make the process of paying down loan debt more manageable.

    Juggling student loans with your new living expenses and other costs can be tough. However, the quicker you pay down these debts, the less money you’ll ultimately pay in interest and the sooner you can start working toward new personal and financial milestones. For help creating a plan for your student debt and any other forms of debt you may have, check out our tips here.

    3. Build an Emergency Fund

    Saving for a rainy day can sound like a tall order when you’re fresh out of school, but expecting the unexpected is an important part of staying financially fit now and in the long run. A general rule of thumb is to set aside three to six months' worth of living expenses for an emergency fund in case of job loss, illness or an unexpected bill.

    If you’re not sure how to build an emergency fund into your budget, consider setting up direct deposit into a separate savings account that you do not use on a regular basis. Even a small contribution to this fund each pay period will help you to prepare for an emergency.

    4. Start Planning for Retirement ASAP

    Pay yourself first. Your golden years may be way off in the future, but sticking to this simple rule will make sure you’re ready when the time comes.

    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 employer will often match your contribution, 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.

    Make sure you fully understand your employer’s retirement plan and how you can maximize your investment. Not doing so now could mean leaving tens of thousands of dollars (or more) on the table when it comes time to collect.

    Remember – setting up tracking may be simple a thing that you can do at nearly any time, but it’s an important step to your privacy protection. This is definitely one task you don’t want to hold off on until it’s too late.

    5. Invest what You Can

    Investing your money is a great next step to building long-term wealth.

    While you may not feel financially ready to invest, easy-to-use mobile apps mean you can begin investing small amounts of money without the use of a financial manager. For example, spare change investment apps are becoming increasingly popular because they encourage users to invest small amounts 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.

    For more MCU Advice and Planning Articles, click here.

    POSTED: May 30, 2019
    Devin McCarthy, Winner of the Thomas Diana Memorial Scholarship

    Devin McCarthy

    A graduating senior at South Side High School in Rockville Centre, Devin is a student leader, competitive athlete, and active community member.

    In addition to being a runner and all-conference diver, she has participated in many of her school’s extracurricular programs, including the Science Honor Society, New York State Mathematics Honor Society, Art Honor Society, Model UN, Leo Club, and Habitat for Humanity, where she has participated on three build sites.

    Outside of school, Devin helps her peers as an algebra 2 and chemistry tutor. She additionally volunteers with New York State Senator Kaminsky’s office.

    Devin is an accomplished student who has participated in an immersive neuroscience class at Columbia University, competed in the Nassau Community College and Molloy College Science Fair, and received an honorable mention at the Long Island Science Fairs.

    Devin will use her scholarship to attend the accelerated Physician’s Assistant’s Program at Kings College.

    Congratulations, Devin!

    POSTED: May 30, 2019
    Andrea Roy, Winner of the John Purroy Mitchel Memorial Scholarship

    Andrea Roy

    Andrea is not only a gifted student at Passaic County Technical Institute, she is passionate about helping her peers and community.

    Andrea is an active member and leader of her school’s Key Stone volunteer group, Student Council and the Christian Student Association. Outside of the classroom, she has volunteered more than 100 hours with Van Dyke Park Place, participated as an active member of her church’s youth group, and raised more than $1,500 for Girls Rising, a global movement for girls’ education.

    A member of the National Honors Society, Andrea’s commitment to both academics and community service lead to her appointment to the PCTI Leaders Emerging Among Peers committee, where she worked with administration to discuss curriculum changes and community engagement.

    Andrea truly embodies our credit union’s tradition of “people helping people”. In fact, she not only received our MCU Memorial Scholarship, but was also awarded the New York State Credit Union Association Scholarship.

    She will use both scholarships to attend Ramapo College, with the hopes of becoming a doctor one day.

    Congratulations, Andrea!

    POSTED: May 30, 2019
    Kristen Palmer, Winner of the Anna Mae Massy Memorial Scholarship

    Kristen Palmer

    An accomplished student with a passion for science and technology, Kristen Palmer is a graduating senior at Poly Prep Country Day School in Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn.

    Kristen is an active member of her school’s community. In addition to being a competitive fencer, she serves as the president of the Girls Who Code and Girl Up clubs and is a member of the Science Olympiad club and Lemonade, an affinity group. She also participates in the Women in Science and Technology program and serves as a peer tutor.

    Outside of the classroom, Kristen has worked as a research intern at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering and volunteered as a counselor at the Innovation Space Summer Camp, where she helped children understand the fundamentals of engineering. She additionally volunteers with A Better Chance and works as a web designer for Rockaway Women for Progress, an organization that strives to protect democracy and human rights.

    Kristen will use her scholarship to study computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    Congratulations, Kristen!

    POSTED: May 30, 2019
    Imera Reyes, Winner of the Julian I. Garfield Memorial Scholarship

    Imera Reyes

    An AP Scholar and performing arts enthusiast, Imera will graduate from New Rochelle High School this spring.

    Imera is an active member of the National Honor Society, National Social Studies Honor Society, National English Honor Society, and Tri M Honor Society. She additionally volunteers as an AP biology and psychology tutor, serves as teaching assistant, participates as a member of the Blessed Sacrament Youth Church Choir, and mentors incoming high school freshmen.

    In addition to her academic pursuits and volunteer efforts, Imera is an accomplished performer who has studied ballet for 14 years and actively works to improve her skills through her school’s PAVE program. She uses these talents to volunteer entertaining the elderly within her community.

    Imera says that performing for many different audiences has inspired her to pursue a career that will help others. She will use her scholarship to attend the College of Arts and Sciences at Stony Brook University.

    Congratulations, Imera!

    POSTED: May 30, 2019
    Michael Ott, Winner of the James McKeon Memorial Scholarship

    Michael Ott

    A student athlete with a passion for medicine and research, Michael Ott will graduate from Valley Stream High School North this spring.

    A member of both the varsity track and cross country teams, Michael is an active member of his school's community. He has participated in several clubs and activities, including Grade Council as well as the Math Honor Society, Science Honor Society, Language Honor Society, History Honor Society and National Honor Societies.

    Outside of school, Michael has remained active by volunteering at the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter, where he learned about training techniques in treating troubled dogs.

    Michael will use his scholarship to attend Binghamton University’s honors college, where he will study biology with the intention of attending medical school. During his first year, he will take part in a Freshman Research Immersion (FRI) Program, allowing him to conduct real research and investigate real world problems.

    Congratulations, Michael!

    POSTED: May 30, 2019
    Leila Gomez, Winner of the Louise DeBow Memorial Scholarship

    Leila Gomez

    A top competitor in the gym and in the classroom, Leila will graduate Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in Jackson Heights, Queens this spring.

    A member of the National Honor Society, Leila has earned an impressive 100.41 GPA throughout her high school career. During this time, she additionally participated in the honors program, received the honor of Principal’s List each semester, and won the Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School Physics Award.

    Outside of the classroom, Leila is a level 10 Gymnast and a four-time competitor at the New York State Qualifiers Meet. She is also an active member of the award winning Gym-Amazing dance team.

    Despite her busy schedule, Leila is committed to giving back to her community, as she founded and organized a bi-annual diaper drive to benefit teen mothers and their children. Leila will use her scholarship to attend the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.

    Congratulations, Leila!

    POSTED: May 30, 2019
    Isaiah Elysee, Winner of the Charles Faulding Memorial Scholarship

    Isaiah Elysee

    Isaiah is a graduating senior at Greater New York Academy in Jackson Heights, Queens who is dedicated to being a leader within his school and community.

    Isaiah is committed to academic success. In addition to achieving an impressive 3.93 GPA, he has held the positions of vice president and treasurer of his school’s chapter of the National Honor Society and served as class secretary for three consecutive years. Isaiah’s passion for learning has also inspired him to participate in the National Youth Leadership Forum for Medicine (NYLF) and earn a certificate from the International Culinary Center.

    Outside of the classroom, Isaiah is a community leader. In addition to serving as a math tutor, he has volunteered with the Jackson Heights Pathfinder Club to serve at a community soup kitchen, contribute in park cleanup events, and support runners during the New York City Marathon. He has also volunteered as a bible station leader and participated on a 10-day mission trip to Belize, where he helped to build a school for local children.

    Isaiah will use his scholarship to attend Andrews University.

    Congratulations, Isaiah!

    POSTED: May 30, 2019
    Ryan Kim, Winner of the Willie James Memorial Scholarship

    Ryan Kim

    A student leader with an impressive academic record and a keen interest in journalism, Ryan is a graduating senior at Stuyvesant High School in Downtown Manhattan.

    Combining these passions, Ryan has made a meaningful difference to his peers as a homeroom leader. He is additionally a creative director for his hip-hop team, editor for the School Year Book Committee, and contributing writer for the Stuyvesant Spectator. At home, he continues to enrich his community as a youth program leader.

    Most impressively, Ryan is a truly exceptional student, who will graduate with a 4.0 GPA and AP honors. He has additionally received academic recognitions such as the Gold Key Award for the 2019 Scholastic Art & Writing Competition and a silver medal in the 2018 National Spanish Exam.

    Ryan will use his memorial scholarship to attend the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University this fall.

    Congratulations, Ryan!

    POSTED: May 30, 2019
    Alex Charkowick, Winner of the Malachy T. Higgins Memorial Scholarship

    Imera Reyes

    An honors student and active community member, Alex is a graduating senior at Wantagh High School.

    Alex is an accomplished student athlete and peer leader who will graduate with an Advanced Regents Diploma and 95.62 GPA. During his high school career, he has participated in the National Society of High School Scholars, New York State Science Honor Society, Key Club, and Entrepreneur Club. In addition to these activities, he is an award-winning swimmer, who serves as the captain of his school’s team.

    Outside of his school community, Alex continues to help others as a lifeguard and volunteer. In addition to working with the St. Barnabas Church Food Kitchen, he has consistently participated in the annual Jones Beach Clean Up and has volunteered with Skudin Surf, an organization that aims to help special needs children learn how to surf.

    Alex will use his scholarship to study engineering at the University of Buffalo.

    Congratulations, Alex!

    POSTED: May 28, 2019
    MCU’s Energy-Saving Tips for this Summer

    It’s no secret that combating the seasonal heat can take a toll on your budget. In fact, according to the Energy Information Administration, approximately 42 percent of all home energy costs are directly related to heating and cooling. Luckily, small changes can make a big difference when it comes to staying comfortable without a steep price tag.

    1. Mind your lights.

    When it comes to reducing energy expenses, we’ve seen the light – literally. Flicking on a light switch can feel like second nature when you walk into a room, but it could also be contributing to your energy bill in more ways than one. Lights during the daytime are not only often an unnecessary power drain in the summer, they also act as a source of heat, which could add to your discomfort and cause your AC to work harder.

    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.

    2. Air seal and insulate your home.

    If you’ve noticed a draft lately, it’s time to seal cracks and take a look at your home’s insulation. A well-insulated home can help keep cool air sealed in your home. This small change will help your AC to run less often, ultimately making a real difference when it comes time to pay your energy bill. 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.

    Speaking of windows, if you’re looking to take on some home improvement projects this summer, replacing old windows is a great investment. This upgrade will not only increase your home’s value, it will make a substantial difference in your home’s efficiency. In fact, adding new double-paned windows can reduce heating and cooling costs by 15 percent and add savings of as much as $2000 over the life of the window.

    3. Invest in a programmable thermostat.

    According to the US Department of Energy, by simply lowering your thermostat by 10-15 degrees while at work, or away from your home, you can make a significant impact on your energy bill – reducing it by nearly 10 percent!

    We recommend making an investment in a programmable thermostat. These devices can be set up to automatically adjust 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.

    4. 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 cooler air in homes that have forced-air central cooling.

    5. Since we’re talking about your AC…

    Routine HVAC maintenance is important when it comes to keeping your unit in top shape and maintaining energy efficiency. This can be as easy as changing out filters that have collected debris over time, which will effectively reduce airflow. Homeowners should also check their HVAC unit’s cooling lines and external fans, which freeze, crack, or jam, causing them to malfunction.

    Units should also be regularly inspected by a professional. These inspections can reduce the long-term costs of repair by identifying any damage or faults that could be effecting the unit’s efficiency and functionality. While small issues will not impact performance or cost at first, they can become major headaches down the road – wasting cooled air and power and even ultimately causing catastrophic damage to the unit.

    For more MCU Advice and Planning Articles, click here.

    POSTED: May 28, 2019
    MCU’s Five Things to Know: Protecting Your Privacy on Your Mobile Device

    Your smartphone is amazing. It can provide GPS directions, stream movies and TV, order your morning coffee with the touch of a finger, and track your health and finances.

    The perks are great but they come at a price – your personal information. Storing sensitive data (credit card numbers, bank accounts, social media accounts, email addresses, etc.) is convenient but can also make you vulnerable, especially if your device becomes compromised.

    Knowing how to protect yourself is key. Check out our tips on how to safeguard your privacy on your mobile devices below!

    1. Lock your devices.

    Locking your devices may seem like a no-brainer. However, a 2018 study conducted by Kaspersky Lab reported that only 52 percent of people have actually taken the time to set up a password

    Phones go missing all of the time. In fact, it’s estimated that millions of phones are lost or stolen in the United States each year. If you ever find yourself in this situation, a locked screen will be your first line of defense when it comes to protecting your personal and financial information.

    Recent technological upgrades have made this feature easier than ever to use with options like facial and fingerprint recognition that eliminate the need to remember a code. (So, no excuses – lock it up!)

    2. Download apps carefully.

    Scammers know that consumers love apps – and they’re not shy about taking advantage.

    Many phony apps are relatively harmless and tend to deliver spam-like advertisements. However, some are reported to be especially malicious. Once downloaded, these apps can release malware onto your device or simply lift your personal and financial information stored on the platform for purchases.

    Look before you click download. These apps are designed to appear convincing and typically have names and logos very similar to those of legitimate services. You can also mitigate the risk of downloading potentially compromising apps by taking the following steps:

    • • Stick to reputable marketplaces when downloading and purchasing apps. These marketplaces have a well-developed Terms of Service policy, FAQ and developer contact information.

    • • Research the app vendor. Look closely for an app privacy policy, the information made available to advertisers and clear contact information.

    • • Check the number of app downloads and read the reviews. The more downloads an app has, the more reputable it is. And while even great apps will have some bad reviews, taking a look at what other users have to say can help ensure the app is secure, functional and (most importantly) legitimate.

    3. Keep software up-to-date.

    Chances are you’ve hit the “Remind Me Later” button on a software update prompt more than once. While it can feel like a nuisance to restart your laptop or make time to set your device aside for a system upgrade, delaying this process could put your device and information at risk.

    Hackers love security flaws and system vulnerabilities that come with outdated software. This is where software updates come in. These upgrades don’t just include new features to your interface, they often include patches and repairs to security holes or offer new tools and systems to identify and remove viruses that may otherwise compromise your device and the information it holds.

    4. Know how to track your device.

    Picture this: You reach for your phone after several hours and realize it’s not where it should be. Panic sets in immediately as you begin to sort out the last time you have seen it.

    It’s a scenario that has probably happened to you at least once. And when your phone or tablet goes missing, you’re not just looking at a steep cost to replace it – your stored information (credit cards, account logins, etc.) is now vulnerable.

    The good news: tracking features are available on nearly all smartphones and iPads. While these features such as “Find My iPhone” may vary across devices, it’s important to know how to access them and enable helpful settings. To learn more about how to enable tracking features on your device, a quick internet search, may be the solution.

    Remember – setting up tracking may be simple a thing that you can do at nearly any time, but it’s an important step to your privacy protection. This is definitely one task you don’t want to hold off on until it’s too late.

    5. Write down your IMEI number.

    You might be scratching your head with this one – it’s okay. We’ll explain.

    Your International Mobile Equipment Identity – or IMEI – number is a serial number located behind your phone’s battery and is used to uniquely and universally identify devices that use terrestrial cellular networks. Every device that uses 3G/4G/5G comes equipped with one of these numbers.

    Because of this, knowing your IMEI is an effective way to prevent theft. This is because if your phone goes missing (and you know your IMEI), your device operator can use the code to register your device to a black list that will block any use of your phone.

    Pretty cool, huh?

    For more MCU Advice and Planning Articles, click here.

    POSTED: Apr 23, 2019
    So, You’re Thinking of Buying a Multifamily Home…

    You’ve got a lot to think about, especially if you plan on “house hacking”. This is when a multifamily homeowner lives in one unit and rents the other units out.

    We’ve come up with a few considerations you’ll need to make before beginning your search. Check them out below!

    1. The Reality of Renters

    Renters are an attractive prospect to owners of multifamily homes because they provide passive income. This extra cash flow is a great resource that can help homeowners cover the cost of their mortgage, build long-term wealth, and even reach other important financial goals.

    Sounds like a quick win, right? Not so fast.

    Passive income is a real benefit but being a landlord can be tough. Bad tenants may mistreat the property, break rules outlined in the contract or even stop paying rent entirely. And a bad tenant is a problem that doesn’t go away easily. The process of evicting an incompliant renter is a lengthy one that may require legal intervention (and a lot of money).

    Our advice: vet potential renters thoroughly. Ask for documentation including a copy of their credit score, proof of employment and references. This will help ensure that you and the tenant you choose will have a good working relationship.

    2. Great (But Complicated) Tax Benefits

    If you’re a landlord, tax season may be the most wonderful time of the year. This is because rental real estate actually provides more tax benefits than almost any other investment. And if you’re planning on house hacking, you’ll qualify for many of these perks. For example, landlords can deduct the interest on their mortgage payments, the cost of repairs they put into the property and any personal property used in the rental unit.

    These benefits are great but homeowners should know that they come at the cost of having to navigate complicated rental property tax requirements. There is an entire IRS publication dedicated to the rules of Residential Rental Property (Publication 527) – be ready to take time to read and fully understand your new obligations come tax season.

    3. Extra Expenses

    The more units in your multifamily home you have, the more expenses you’ll be facing upfront and over time. There are more appliances that may break, walls that need to be painted, faucets that leak– you get the idea. And while you may be eligible for great tax breaks that will help to cover some of these expenses, you’ll still need to manage the costs upfront.

    Income from renters can help create a cushion for these financial responsibilities throughout the year. However, property owners need to be financially prepared if this cash flow stops unexpectedly or doesn’t cover the full amount of the cost incurred.

    To help mitigate these risks and free up dependency on income provided by tenants, homeowners should build and maintain an emergency fund that can cover 3-6 months’ worth of expenses. This is especially important for long-term financial health because having this money set aside can help you avoid taking on high-interest debt in unexpected situations.

    4. More Demanding Mortgage Requirements

    Getting the keys to a multifamily home can financially demanding. For example, mortgage lenders may require a buyer to provide a down payment of 25-30 percent, compared to the minimum down payment of 3-5 percent required for a single-family home.

    And you’re not done just yet – in addition to this large down payment requirement, buyers will need to prove that they have a six-month financial reserve for their mortgage, property taxes, property insurance, and mortgage insurance.

    Lenders may factor in a percentage of your potential income from rent when it comes to qualifying you for a mortgage on a multifamily home. While this can help you get in the door for house hacking (pun intended), buyers should be cautious. As mentioned above, tenants are not always the most reliable source of income. Even if they default on their financial obligations to you, you as the homeowner, are still responsible for the full mortgage payment to your lender.

    POSTED: Apr 17, 2019
    Five Great Indicators that Credit Unions are Here to Stay

    The first credit union was founded in Germany in 1849 to serve and protect low-income urban workers from predatory lending. Since then, our movement, driven by the motto of “people helping people”, has withstood economic recessions, international conflicts and most recently, FinTech disruptors. Today, we’re proud to report that credit unions are thriving, growing and serving our members around the globe better than ever.

    A lot may be changing for the financial services industry but one thing is for sure – credit unions are here to stay. Learn more about how our movement is better than ever before below.

    1. Membership is on the rise. According to the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), credit union membership is up 4.3% as of June 2018, the fastest pace since before the financial crisis! CUNA expects this trend to remain strong and consistent, with membership growth increasing by 3.5% in 2019.

    Similarly, a recent report from the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) has reported that there are now more than 89,026 credit unions serving more than 260 million members around the globe (in 117 countries and six continents to be exact!). If that sounds like a lot, it is. In fact, we’ve reached our WOCCU 2020 global membership goal three years in advance.

    The most notable global changes and growth in recent years include 12 million new members in the US, 11 million each in Latin America and Africa, 7 million in Asia and one million in Europe.

    2. …And they’re saving like never before. Credit Unions aren’t just bringing in record numbers of members, we’re helping them save like they deserve. According to the 2018 Credit Union Impact Report, savings balances increased by 5.3% at credit unions in 2018 – the average share balance is now a reported $10,498. The report additionally reported that members opened more than 3.4 million checking accounts across the globe and credit unions paid a cumulative $8.4 billion in share dividends this past year.

    3. Our lending products are more competitive than ever. Banks may not be our only competitors when it comes to lending anymore, but we’re still rising to the occasion and surpassing expectations along the way. According to the 2018 Credit Union Impact Report, U.S. credit union members generated 9.1% more loan originations in 2018 than in in 2017. We additionally loaned a total of $513.9 billion to members and $70.0 billion to small businesses.

    And we’re not just lending, we’re giving back as well. Last year, credit unions around the world returned a total $77.5 million in loan interests to members.

    4. We’re making significant strides in our communities. Social responsibility has been part of the credit union movement’s DNA since the very beginning. Today, the global movement is taking this commitment to new heights. According to the 2018 Credit Union Impact Report, 2,170 credit unions offered financial education in 2018 and 1,777 provided scholarships. Additionally 2,543 low-income designated credit unions provided financial services to more than 48.1 million members who may have otherwise gone underbanked.

    We’ve been committed to giving back for a long time but our efforts aren’t just helping our members and communities, it’s helping us to bu