Advice & Planning

Articles

POSTED: Apr 17, 2019
Go Green, Save Green This Spring

This year, Earth Day is April 22nd and going green is easier than ever with MCU’s digital banking tools. Signing up won’t just help the environment but also saves our members time, money and hassle. Check them out below!

NYMCU Online Banking: Safely and securely manage your MCU account. With NYMCU Online Banking, members can view account balances, transfer funds between accounts, signup for account alerts and much more.

NYMCU Mobile Banking: The NYMCU Mobile Banking App gives members the freedom to manage accounts, transfer funds, pay bills and find the nearest MCU ATM or branch locations anytime, anywhere.

MCU BillPay: Avoid mailing costs and late fees by paying bills on an ad hoc or prescheduled basis. Members can also save time by paying friends and family quickly and securely with our person-to-person ePayments feature.

MCU eStatements: Never lose track of your statements again. eStatments not only notify you that a new statement has arrive each month via email, but gives our members access to up to 60 months’ worth of statements.

Learn more about these great paperless options and to enroll in NYMCU Online Banking or download the NYMCU Mobile Banking App today!


Apple Store
Google Play
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 build relationships with future members. According to a Cone Communications survey , 87% of Americans will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about, and millennials are more likely than other generations to research the issues a company supports and the extent to which the company contributes. We’re excited to continue to welcome them aboard!

5. The future is bright with Gen Z (and we’re just getting started). According to the Financial Brand, 58% of Gen Z (individuals born around or after the year 2000) consumers who use credit unions report being very satisfied with their experience, compared to just 46% who use major banks. It’s a great start and as this cohort of young people begin to grow their banking experience, credit unions are gearing up with the products and services they’re looking for. Most notably, digital products.

“We are gearing our efforts toward digitization, including access to core services by online and mobile channels, automation of internal processes and connection to local payments and electronic ecosystems,” said WOCCU President Brian Branch. “If we want to continue growing and competing in tomorrow’s disruptive markets, we take on this challenge, make it our own and market the advantage to serve the under-served.”

POSTED: Apr 07, 2019
Tax Season Scams and Schemes to Know

Everyone is gearing up for tax season, and that includes scammers and identity thieves. As you prepare to file, now is a great time to brush up on recognizing and identifying scams and suspicious activity that could leave your personal and financial information at risk. Check out some of the most popular schemes that could affect you this tax season below!

1. *Ring, Ring* the IRS isn’t calling.

It’s a tried and true scam every consumer should be ready for this tax season. Thieves claiming to be from the IRS will call and ask their victims to immediately send a payment to cover money owed to the government. Oftentimes they will ask for this payment in the form of a preloaded debit card or wire transfer.

These callers are often aggressive, will use personal or financial information against their victims and even make threats. They can be persistent and are sure to try intimidation factors. They may follow up these phone calls with fake emails or phone calls pretending to be from the DMV or local police.

If you receive a phone call or email claiming to be from the IRS, don’t panic and do not send funds. Instead, take the following steps.

  • • Remember that the IRS will always initiate contact with a taxpayer concerning money owed via traditional mail and will never request personal or financial information through email or over the phone.

  • • Hang up the phone immediately if someone claiming to be from the IRS unexpectedly calls and makes threats of any kind. To know for sure that you are working with an IRS representative, call the agency directly at (800) 829-1040.

  • • Always report potential scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-448. You can also report these incidents with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

2. They’re not emailing either.

Taxpayers are being warned to be on the alert for emails they receive claiming to be from the IRS. These fraudulent emails bait users to open documents containing malware. The scam email carries an attachment often labeled “Tax Account Transcript” or something similar, and the subject line uses some variation of the phrase “tax transcript.”

Once malware is introduced to a laptop, tablet or smartphone, it can corrupt files and steal sensitive personal and financial information stored on the device.

If you receive an email claiming to be from the IRS, don’t open it. Instead, take note of the following steps.

  • • Remember, the IRS does not send unsolicited emails to the public, nor would it email a sensitive document such as a tax transcript.

  • • Never open these attachments and delete the scam email immediately or forward it to phishing@irs.gov.

  • • If you receive this scam email to your work email or on a work device, notify the company’s IT Department immediately.

3. Choose your tax preparer carefully.

Safely filing your taxes starts with picking a preparer who is trustworthy and reputable. Scammers posing as tax preparers or tax accountants will take advantage of their victims by making false claims on their tax returns, or even stealing their refunds. These scams are especially harmful because they often target and take advantage of those who might not otherwise have to file tax returns, such as the elderly or low-income households. They can also and lead to identity theft.

If you choose to use a tax preparer, it’s important to take the following precautions.

  • • Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid preparers who promise larger refunds than what others preparers can obtain, as well as those who base their fee on a percentage of your refund.

  • • Do your homework. Before hiring any tax preparer, be sure to look closely at their professional credentials and take a look at any online reviews for their services.

  • • Make sure your tax preparer is willing to sign your return and provide their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). The preparer must also provide you with a copy of the return.

  • • Remember that you are legally responsible for what’s on your tax return, even if you didn’t prepare it yourself. Always look over your return carefully and never sign a blank return.

  • • If you suspect your return has been compromised by your preparer, be sure to report it to the IRS by downloading Form 14157 and Form 14157-A on the IRS.gov website.

POSTED: Mar 29, 2019
A Guide to NYMCU Text Banking

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Lock Your Online and Mobile Banking Access.

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

3. Check Your Balances.

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

4. View Transaction History.

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

5. View Pending Transactions.

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

6. Check Branch Hours.

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

7. Learn More NYMCU Text Banking Functions.

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

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

*Cell phone carrier text messaging charges may apply.

POSTED: Mar 28, 2019
Five Questions to Ask When Accepting a New Job Offer

It’s no secret that job hunting can be stressful. And while you may be eager to jump at an offer that comes your way (perhaps after several tedious interviews), pause and be on the ready to ask important questions. These considerations could make the difference between landing your dream job and walking away from a dude.

Check out important questions to ask below,

1. “Is the salary fair?”

This is one question you’ll have to both ask yourself and answer for yourself.

Remember, no matter how good an offer may seem, always do your research before signing on the dotted line. Online resources can offer insights into what kind of salary you should expect from your new position. If the figure offered to you seems low in comparison to similar positions, ask if there’s room for negotiation. This may not always be the case but if there’s flexibility, use hard facts and relevant figures – instead of emotions – to make your argument.

2. “What’s included in the benefits package?”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a salary typically only makes up about 70 percent of your total compensation. To get the best idea about what your new position is actually providing you, ask to see a comprehensive breakdown of the benefits that would be offered to you. This is especially important because even a competitive salary probably may not be enough to make up for the shortcomings of a lean benefits package, especially if you have special personal or familial circumstances to consider.

The rise in healthcare costs often makes quality health insurance a top priority for job hunters. However, make sure you have a good understanding of all of the benefits you may receive. This could include dental healthcare insurance, retirement planning, disability insurance and commuter benefits.

3. “How much paid time off is offered?”

A good work-life balance means different things to different people. As you begin to consider a job offer, don’t forget to consider an organization’s rules and expectations about the amount of time you’ll be spending at work. To do this, ask to see a paid time off (PTO) policy.

This policy will help explain the time off you’re entitled to. A PTO policy may designate specific vacation, personal and sick days. In other instances, these days may be bundled, which means there’s just one bank of paid leave that you can use for whatever reason you want. It’s also important to ask if the PTO policy that allows for time to roll over if you’re not able to use all of your allotted days within a calendar year.

4. “Are there continuing education opportunities available?”

Continuing education is an important part of growing professionally and advancing a career. Whether you’re thinking of going back to school to pursue a new degree or just want to learn new skills that are important to your field, ask your potential new employer if there are special programs in place that can help you along the way. They may or may not offer assistance in the form of an annual allowance for continuing education courses or designate a number of out-of-office days that can be used for conferences.

Even if continuing education isn’t quite on your radar, ask about these benefits and accommodations anyway. You may be pleasantly surprised about how you can use education opportunities to your advantage.

5. “Am I compatible with the corporate culture?”

There are a lot of things to consider when presented with a new job opportunity. However, one of the most important things that many job hunters forget to ask themselves is “Will I be happy working here?” The reality is that you’ll be spending a lot of time in your new position and being content and comfortable will play an important role in your success. This is when it’s time to take a close look at your new employer’s corporate culture.

The truth is that you will never really know the corporate culture until you have worked at a company for a number of months. However, you can do a bit of research ahead of time to get the right idea. Start by reading the objectives expressed in the company’s mission statement, researching workplace reviews available online, and looking for employee engagement initiatives that are made public.

The information you find in your research are important but don’t forget to consider how a company’s corporate culture is compatible with your goals. Be honest with yourself and your potential new employer. If it doesn’t feel like a good fit, it may be best to keep shopping around.

POSTED: Mar 27, 2019
Six Money Lessons to Teach Your Teen

Watching your teenager grow up can feel like a whirlwind as they get their first job, get behind the wheel of a car for the first time, make their first real purchase and start their first day of college. While these milestones can be as exciting for you as it is for them, don’t forget to slow down and make time for important financial conversations. As your teen takes big steps towards financial and personal independence, now is a great time to introduce the lessons that will help them to develop strong money habits that will last a lifetime.

Check them out below!

1. Creating a Budget

Creating and sticking to an effective budget is one of the most important keys to financial wellness. It’s also something that some adults can struggle with their whole lives. Talk to your teen about creating a spending plan that considers their income (such as allowance, paycheck and even birthday money), expenses (including new clothes and gas money) and their goals (saving for textbooks or buying a vehicle). Start slowly – it can be a lot to take in – and consider using visuals such as a spreadsheet or budgeting app that can help them to see how sticking to a plan can really pay off.

If they stray from their budget and get into financial trouble, don’t jump to the rescue so quickly. Letting your teen face consequences can help them to learn from their mistakes. Instead, work with them to find a solution and put a new plan together.

2. Reading a Paycheck

Picking up that first paycheck is an exciting milestone for every young adult. As you celebrate this big moment with your teen, take some time to show them how to read their pay stub. This can be as simple as pointing out the difference between gross and net income and showing your teen how to spot errors, such as unlogged work hours.

Speaking of gross and net pay, chances are your teen will be surprised at how little money they net – as in, the amount that ultimately appears on their paycheck. This is a great time to have a conversation about deductions. All workers pay into Social Security and Medicare and earnings that exceed $7,600 in a year, qualify for federal income tax. Other optional deductions, such as health insurance can play a role in the percentage of pay taken out of each check.

3. The Basics of Tax Prep

Between shopping at retail stores and earning their first paychecks, your teenager likely already understands what taxes are. However, filing an annual tax return is a whole other story and something that young adults often struggle to understand for years.

Help your teen understand that filing taxes is an annual responsibility – even if they don’t think they’ve earned enough to warrant filing. Once your child has their first job, help them plan for filing taxes by encouraging them to store W-2 forms, receipts and any other documents they’ll need when tax time rolls around. If you’re comfortable doing so, parents can even bring their children to meet with a tax preparer or invite them to work with you to prepare the necessary paperwork together as a team.

4. The Importance of Building Good Credit

As your teen starts to consider student credit cards, college loans and other financial responsibilities, it’s important to talk to them about building and maintaining a credit score that can benefit them for years to come.

Explain that credit is important. A good credit score reflects how trustworthy a borrower is and will help individuals to get approved for lower interest rates on loans, rent an apartment and even receive better pricing on insurance. These things may not concern your teen right now but it’s important to help them understand that those feelings will change in just a few short years and to get ahead, they’ll want to start as early as possible.

The nuances of credit and how to build credit can be confusing, to prepare for a chat with your teen, check out our FAQ here.

5. Delayed Gratification

Teenagers are impulsive, especially when it comes to spending money. As your teen starts to earn cash or gains access to credit, it’s important to help them understand that large purchases need to be planned for. If not, your child could find themselves in financial trouble quickly.

A good exercise to practice with your child while they’re still picking up money habits is the “Save Twice, Spend Half” rule. Essentially, if your teen wants to buy a $50 video game, require them to save $100 first. When they’re ready to make their purchase, the other $50 goes straight into a savings account. This exercise will help your teen learn patience when it comes to saving for large purchases and keep them mindful to their budget and financial goals.

6. Saving for a Rainy Day Fund

Expecting the unexpected is an important part of staying financially fit. However, saving for a rainy day is easier said than done– according to a recent Bankrate survey, nearly 60 percent of Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $1,000 emergency. As your child takes on more financial responsibilities, help them to prepare for a time when they may need to rely on an emergency fund. This is an important financial step because it can keep you from resorting to taking on high-interest debt or making desperate financial decisions in tough times.

A general rule of thumb is to put away three to six months' worth of living expenses for an emergency fund in case of job loss, illness or an unexpected bill. To help your teens put this into context, walk them through how this could mean taking on car repairs, textbooks or unexpected tuition expenses.

POSTED: Mar 20, 2019
Four Financial Steps to Choosing a College

Students who are graduating or looking to transfer schools know that while there are many exciting things to consider when choosing a college or university, they won’t get far into their deliberations without having to think about the expense. And it’s no surprise why – the cost of college is affecting more Americans than ever. According to Student Loan Hero, 69 percent of college students graduated with student loans in 2018. The average amount of debt reportedly taken on was more than $29,800!

While loans may seem inevitable, students should take time to carefully consider their options and make decisions that will help them stay in strong financial shape. Check out our tips below!

1. Understand the total cost breakdown.

It’s no secret that tuition is on the rise – the average tuition bill for a private university during the 2017/2018 academic year was more than $34,900! If it sounds like a lot, it is, but don’t forget that there are more bills coming your way.

The additional costs associated with college enrollment may individually seem small by comparison but the cumulative expense could leave you feeling blindsided. This includes textbooks, administrative fees, housing, on-campus health insurance, the cost of supplies and equipment, food and parking. Each university will approach these expenses differently so it’s important to read through the total cost breakdown of each program carefully.

2. Review scholarships and financial aid carefully.

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

Our advice: Proceed with caution. In many cases, financial aid packages and scholarship awards will work in your favor but in other scenarios, they may not be all that they promise. Not knowing these requirements and details upfront could lead to very expensive surprises down the road.

3. Research work-study opportunities.

Many students work while attending college but work-study programs are a bit different from a typical part-time job. Like scholarships and grants, these programs are offered through colleges and universities and are typically selective to certain students who stand out academically or fall into need-base categories. Students will also know if they qualify for a program like this early on (typically with their acceptance letter or soon after).

In addition to providing opportunities to learn professional skills, work-study programs typically pay well and accommodate a student’s class schedule, making them ideal to help take on costs associated with school as they occur.

4. Do the math: Earning potential vs. expense.

It’s true that your education is an investment in yourself but you need to be smart about that investment. The reality is that not all colleges cost the same and not all degrees come with the same earning potential. If you do find yourself taking on student loans (like most students), you’ll need to decide how much debt is manageable considering what you’re expected to reasonably earn in both the short and long-term. Remember, you’ll be expected to begin taking on your debt shortly after graduation.

It may turn out that the “best” college you get into may not be the right fit if it means taking on a heavy debt load to follow a passion or profession that likely won’t give you the financial ability to pay off your loans.

POSTED: Feb 07, 2019
MCU Scam Roundup: Winter 2019

Americans are getting smarter about protecting their identity, sensitive information and finances. But fraudsters aren’t giving up that quickly. These thieves are paying close attention to our new consumer habits and trends to put a new spin on old scams. Staying informed is the key to getting ahead. Check out these recently reported scams that are currently affecting consumers everywhere.

1. Hang up on Social Security Spoofing Calls

According to the National Council of Aging, it’s estimated that older adults are losing billions of dollars to scammers each year. To help protect yourself and your loved ones, experts are warning consumers to be on the alert for one of the top offenders: Phony Social Security calls.

How It Works:

Thieves posing as representatives from the Social Security Administration are calling and threatening victims with arrest or legal action, claiming improper or illegal activity on their Social Security account. 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 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 scams just by looking at their caller ID and spotting a restricted or suspicious phone number. However, thieves have once again adapted and are reported to now engineer phone calls so that they now appear to be coming from the actual Social Security hotline number.

What You Should Do:

  • • 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.

2. Stop Mobile Fraud in its Track

Malware attacks are nothing new to consumers but fraudsters are taking their scams to the next level: Mobile apps. And it’s no surprise why – last year, a reported one-third of total U.S. retail sales took place on a mobile device at some point in the purchasing process. As consumers continue to shop on their phones and tablets at increasing rates, scammers are at the ready to take advantage. According to FraudWatch International, fraudulent transactions from mobile apps have increased by a whopping 300% since 2015.

How It Works:

Scammers are developing fraudulent apps designed to put you at risk. These apps can look nearly identical to a reputable retail or financial services brand or they may just lure shoppers in with the promise enticing promotions. In reality, these apps are designed to steal your information through malware, which once installed onto your device can retrieve any stored sensitive information such as passwords and account login information.

If Malware is installed on your device, your phone or tablet can even become controlled by scammers remotely. Downloading an infected app could even turn your device into a bot.

What You Should Do:

  • • Stick to reputable marketplaces when downloading and purchasing apps. Some characteristics of a safe marketplace are:

  • - A well-developed Terms of Service policy

  • - Clear contact information and troubleshooting FAQ

  • - A history of removing vendors with poor content

  • • 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. Don’t Let Cryptocurrency Scams Hurt Your Real-Life Wallet

As investors look to the future, cryptocurrencies continue to be an exciting and growing trend. However, as legitimate companies and individuals are increasingly using initial coin offerings (ICOs) as a way to raise capital for business ventures and projects, investors should be on the lookout for fraud.

How It Works:

Scammers have been reported to invite unsuspecting members of the public to invest in non-existing ICOs. It’s only after buying into the ICO do victims learn that the offer doesn’t really exist. Unfortunately, due to lack of strong regulations in the crypto financial sector, most investors lose their cash for good.

What You Should Do:

  • • Research, research, research. The cryptocurrency market has few regulations in place to protect investors. Before you decide to part with your cash for an ICO, be sure to do your homework.

  • - Be on the watch for promises that seem too good to be true. If an ICO promises unrealistic returns on investments, it’s best to steer clear.

  • - Know the core team. Many fake teams use names of reputed ICO advisors on their websites. Spend time to research each of ICO team members on different sites and see if they are actually associated with the project.

  • - Look at the White Paper. This is a plan developed by the ICO team that extensively outlines an the upcoming project and a company’s business plan – the problem it seeks to correct, the product it will offer, the team, token value and distribution, etc. If this document doesn’t look fully flushed out, don’t invest

  • • If you think you’ve become a victim of an ICO scam, report this incident with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC)

POSTED: Jan 15, 2019
MCU’s Five Things to Know: Financial Moves to Make after Marriage

Love may be in the air but if you’re about to get married, there’re more to think about than just where to honeymoon. In fact, now is the time to become familiar with the important financial steps you’ll need to take after saying “I do” in order to ensure a strong future for you and your spouse.

Check out our tips on how to on saving money and creating a sound financial foundation for your marriage below.

1. Update your insurance.

When it comes to properly protecting you and your new spouse, this is one step you’ll want to take sooner than later, especially when it comes to health insurance. This is because you’ll typically only have 30 days after your wedding to add your spouse to your employer’s health coverage or vice versa. If you miss this window, you’ll have to wait until Open Enrollment the following year, which can end up costing both of you an unnecessary amount of money in the meantime.

To help avoid a time crunch, start reviewing your policies before the big day. Remember, cheaper may not always be better. Before you start to file any paperwork, make sure you know the details of each policy so you understand which person has the better plan and/or the cheaper family plan.

Don’t forget your other policies too. To make sure you’re getting the best price for the right coverage on things like auto and homeowners insurance, talk to your current provider about the new changes in your life to get a quote for an adjusted policy. Like with any large purchase, it’s also important to shop around and compare pricing. Many providers offer discounts for multiple cars and multiple policies.

2. Change your beneficiary designations.

Chances are you named your parents, siblings or other relatives as beneficiaries when you first opened your IRA and/or 401(k) plan or bought a life insurance policy. And while retirement may seem like a long way off, officially naming your spouse as your beneficiary now is a very important step in protecting them financially in the event of an emergency. This is because even if you name them as your sole beneficiary in your Will and Testament, the named beneficiaries of your plans will still be legally entitled to them.

3. Open a joint account.

While many couples are opting out of combining all of their funds, a recent Bankrate survey reported that 77 percent of married couples choose to open at least one joint financial account together. And it’s easy to understand why – this financial move helps couples manage shared bills, budget for expenses and even prepare for emergencies.

However, a joint account can also cause a lot of conflict in a relationship if both parties aren’t on the same page. Before taking this step, it’s important to have an honest conversation about your financial attitudes, behaviors and obligations. Check out our tips here.

4. Don’t forget your taxes.

A lot changes after marriage, and that includes your taxes. For example, you may want to claim a personal exemption for your spouse or you might find yourself pushed into a higher tax bracket with your newly combined incomes. This will require you to complete and submit a W-4 Form to your employer to have your withholdings and deductions adjusted. If you need help filling out Form W-4, you can use the IRS Withholding Calculator to avoid having too little or too much Federal income tax withheld from your paychecks.

Getting married will also give you more options regarding which status you can file your taxes under. This will help to determine your tax liability, filing requirements, and eligibility for various tax deductions and tax credits. There are five different filing statuses: single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, and qualifying widow(er) with dependent child. If you find that more than one filing status applies to you, you can use whichever one offers you the most tax benefits. Learn more about how to choose the best filing status for your needs here.

5. Expect the unexpected.

Marriage is for the long haul and there may be some bumps along the way. Newly married couples can start preparing for possible tough times with 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. Remember, as a married couple there are more expenses to consider. Make a list of all of your new financial responsibilities and obligations and make sure that what you have saved is still sufficient to cover your cost of living. You may find yourself needing a larger fund than you initially expected.

Being prepared for tough times also means having the right paperwork in place. It may be difficult to talk about but married couples should work together to put together important legal documents such as Financial Power of Attorney and a Last Will and Testament, which will help to protect your financials assets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Check Your Credit Reports.

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

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

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

2. Review Your Budget

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

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

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

3. Start Investing

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

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

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

4. Create an Emergency Fund

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

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

5. Become Properly Insured

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

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

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

6. Automate Payments

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

7. Plan Your Retirement Account Contributions

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

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

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

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

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

Check out our tips below!

1. Contribute to Your Emergency Fund

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

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

2. Max Out Your IRA or Roth IRA Contributions

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

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

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

3. Get the Right Insurance Coverage

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

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

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

4. Start a 529 Pan for Your Kids

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

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

5. Make a Tax-Deducible Charitable Donation

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

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

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

6. Set Up Automatic Payments

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

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

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

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

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

1. Be Realistic with Your Budget

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

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

2. Make a List (and Check it Twice)

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

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

3. Give Your Time

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

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

4. Use Coupons to Your Advantage

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

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

5. Give Thoughtful Gifts

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

6. Plan Ahead

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

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

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

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

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

1. Make a List and Set a Budget

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

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

2. Do Your Homework

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

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

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

3. Keep a Positive Attitude

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

4. Be Mindful of Your Belongings

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

5. Keep an Eye on Your Transactions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out our tips below!

1. Start with a retirement account.

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

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

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

2. Pay down your high-interest debt ASAP.

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

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

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

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

3. Don’t forget an emergency fund.

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

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

4. Protect yourself with (the right) insurance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Decide if you can really afford it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Discuss your budget and financial resources.

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

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

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

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

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

3. Explore DIY projects.

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

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

4. Price shop your vendors.

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

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

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

5. Consider your financing options.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Goals

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

2. Financial Obligations and Debt

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

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

3. Spending Habits and Financial Attitudes

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

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

4. It’s not for Every Couple

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Start a 529 Plan

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

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

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

2. Consider a Coverdell Education Savings Account

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

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

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

3. Gift U.S. Treasury Bonds

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

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

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

4. Use the Equity in Your Home

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

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

5. Apply for a Parent PLUS Loan

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

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

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

6. Help your children understand their financial aid

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

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

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

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

Check them out below!

1. Two Months’ Rent and a Security Deposit

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

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

2. Broker’s Fee

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

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

3. Application and Credit Check Authorization Fees

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

4. Utility Deposits

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

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

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

5. Renters Insurance

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

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

6. Pet Fee

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

7. Stocking Essentials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Annual Percentage Rate (APR).

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

2. Minimum Payment.

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

3. Annual Fee.

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

4. Hidden Charges

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

5. Perks.

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

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

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

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

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

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


1. Your loans can be federal or private.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Don’t default on your loans!

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

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

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

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

1. Budgeting

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

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

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

2. Sharing Fund and Accounts

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

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

3. Financial Obligations

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


4. Retirement

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

5. Back-Up Plans

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

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

By Ashley Dull

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POSTED: Dec 19, 2017
The Benefit of Direct Deposit For Your Tax Refund
checkimage

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

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

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

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

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

1. Create a Budget and Stick to it

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

2. Plan Your Holiday Travel in Advance

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

3. Avoid Last Minute Shopping Situations

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Set up Account Alerts

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

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

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

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

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

1. Balance Transfer Offers

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

For example a balance transfer fee can play a role in whether or not choosing to transfer your debt is actually cost effective. Depending on the credit card, these fees can be as expensive as five percent of the amount transferred. On a $5,000 balance, the fee will add $250 to the amount owed. Additionally, the balance transfer limit may not allow you to transfer the entire balance of your high-interest credit card.

2. Interest Rates

You may not realize it, but your new credit card may not be as affordable as you thought. It’s easy to be enticed by appealing introductory rates but before signing on the dotted line, consumers will need to know for how long that rate will last, how it will change and what the maximum interest they may face.

3. Fees

Be sure to always read the fine print and to know the conditions of the card you are opening. A credit card can come with several fees that can add up quickly! They include:

  • Application Fee – A consumer can be charged with an application fee once they receive card approval. This is usually a flat fee and should be avoided. If you’re required to call a 900 number to apply for the card, that also may generate a fee.

  • Annual Holding Fee – this yearly charge is typically a flat fee that is in addition to any purchases charged. Even if you do not use this credit card, you will incur an annual fee. While many credit card companies and financial institutions will waive this fee, some credit cards can come with an annual fee amount to hundreds of dollars!

  • Processing fee – in addition to an application fee, a processing fee may be charged simply for the task of processing the application. These fees are more likely to be charged if the individual fails to qualify for the initial card offer and s then instead offered a less appealing offer. This fee is relatively rare, but is sometimes charged by the less reputable companies.

4 . Your Lifestyle

Ask yourself if the card compliments money management style and spending practices.

For example credit card details and features including grace periods and rewards programs should be consistent with your lifestyle and credit card habits. A grace period is the number of days after a purchase is made before the credit card company or financial institution begins to charge interest. For consumers who pay their card in full each month, a longer grace period may be more important than a lower annual interest rate.

Additionally, while it can be important to take advantage of reward programs or gain discounts on specific purchases, it generally has a smaller impact than interest rates and fees.

POSTED: Oct 04, 2017
Tips and Tools for Avoiding NSF Fees

Using your debit card comes with many advantages. Most notably, your debit card gives you the benefit of quickly and easily making purchases without the potential of running up a credit card bill you may not be able to pay at the end of the month. Nevertheless, the many types of debit card and checking account transactions make it difficult at times to keep up with your balances. And if you end up making more transactions than your account balance can handle, you may be charged with a Non-Sufficient Funds (NSF) Fee.

An NSF Fee is assessed whenever you write a check or make a debit or electronic payment (one time or recurring) and the payment or check is returned as unpayable due to insufficient available funds in your account. NSF Fees are a big price to pay for not keeping track of your account balances.

Following are some recommendations to help you stay on top of your account balances and avoid being charged NSF fees:

  • Check Your Balances Regularly:
    The most important tip to avoid NSF Fees is simple: check your balances on a regular basis to make sure you have sufficient available funds in your account to cover checks, debit card purchases, electronic payments, recurring withdrawals and any other payments you have scheduled. You can monitor your balances daily via NYMCU Online Banking, the NYMCU Mobile Banking App, and by setting up an Account Activity Summary Alert, which can conveniently send you an email or text message with a summary of your transactions and balances each morning.
  • Avoid Using Debit Cards to Buy Gas, Rent Cars and at Hotels: These types of businesses often place temporary blocks or holds on your checking account for security reasons, for amounts that exceed the amount of your purchase or rental, when you pay by debit card. These blocks and holds can tie up funds in your checking account needed for other purchases. Using a credit card or cash for hotels and car rentals, and gas can save you from paying more than you should in the long run.
  • Set up Automatic Electronic Payments:
    Automatic electronic payments (ACH payments) are a great way to conveniently pay bills without having to wait for a mailed check to be received and deposited by a merchant. Electronic payments are processed more quickly than paper check transactions, often within one business day, so you will spend less time wondering when payments will be completed.
  • Stop Recurring/Scheduled Transactions If Your Balance Drops:
    Be careful when scheduling automatic recurring electronic payments. If you think you will not have sufficient funds available in your account to cover an upcoming payment, you can place a Stop Payment Order with MCU. The Stop Payment fee is less than the NSF Fee. However, MCU may not be able to stop a payment unless the Stop Payment request is received at least three business days before the payment date. You may also be able to cancel a scheduled payment with some merchants and creditors for free.

    An NSF Fee can be charged to your account each and every time that a check or an electronic withdrawal request is returned unpaid. But there are laws that limit the number of times that a merchant or creditor can attempt to withdraw funds from your account for the same transaction. If you think a company is making excessive withdrawal requests, contact them immediately and tell them to stop. If that doesn’t work, place a Stop Payment Order with MCU.

For more information on NSF Fees, please refer to our Schedule of Dividends, Service Charges and Fees. For more information on NYMCU Online Banking, NYMCU Mobile Banking, and Account Alerts, please visit the Digital Banking section of our website.

POSTED: Aug 22, 2017
Four Ways Your Credit Card is Better than Cash

Move over, cash – there’s a new king in town. You already know that your credit card is a great option for moving through a checkout line quickly; online shopping and booking vacations, but some less obvious perks could have you leaving behind paper money for good. Check them out below!

1. Track Your Spending Habits

It can be very hard to keep track of how you’re spending your money when using cash. Holding onto receipts throughout the month can be difficult and putting together a comprehensive list of all purchases (including small ones), tedious. However, using your credit card regularly means your spending history will be detailed on one bill at the end of each month, making it easy to review purchases and gain insights into your spending habits. Even better, cardholders can view their bill in real-time using online banking. Having easy access to this information is the first step to identifying any problematic spending habits and to make changes that work for you.

2. Build Your Credit

Credit is important. A good credit score will help you get approved for lower interest rates on loans, rent an apartment and even receive better pricing on insurance. Thirty-five percent of your credit score is based on your payment history, which is good news for responsible credit card holders. Using your credit card on items you would normally pay for with cash and then paying your bill on time each month will help you create a strong payment history, building your credit score with the added benefit of not having to take on extra debt.

3. Have a Safety Net

Credit cards offer a variety of features that can protect you if things go wrong. For example, while very little can be done if cash is lost or stolen, cardholders can simply call their financial institution to report their card missing and have a new one provided to them in just a matter of days. And with zero liability protection, cardholders are protected from losing any money if they're victimized by fraud. Similarly, if a consumer use their card in a transaction that turns out to be a scam, they can alert their financial institution or credit card company to place a stop on a payment.

4. Enjoy Rewards

You’re already spending your money on everyday items like groceries, utilities and gas. Why not earn perks for your purchases? While the benefits will vary, many credit cards will offer programs that may reward you for your spending habits. These rewards may include cashback, air miles and merchant discounts. Cash can’t do that for you!

POSTED: Aug 01, 2017
Finance 101: MCU’s Financial Tips for College Students

Being a college student is an exciting time filled with new experiences, curiosity and higher learning (and pizza, of course). It’s also the first time that many young people will find themselves independently taking on financial responsibilities. And while being a “broke college student” is an experience shared by many, it’s still extremely stressful.

Luckily, there are some easy steps to help students take control of their finances now and develop healthy money management habits that will last a lifetime. Check them out below!

1. Create a Budget

No matter the amount of money you’re working with, a budget will help keep your spending within your means.

With any spending plan, some compromises and sacrifices will have to be made. Students will have to set (and stick to) realistic limits on activities such as eating out, entertainment and shopping. Because college students are typically on tight budgets, it’s also important to recognize that seemingly small expenses can add up fast. For instance, a cup of gourmet coffee every day can eat up nearly $20 every week.

Remember to also make considerations for expenses (like a car insurance bill) that will only occur once or twice throughout the year as well. Check out MCU’s Tips for Creating an Effective Spending Plan for more information.

2. Stay Smart About Credit

Credit is important. A good credit score will help you get approved for lower interest rates on loans, rent an apartment and even receive better pricing on insurance.

College is a great time to take steps toward building credit. However, if students aren’t careful, they can easily get carried away, open several credit cards with enticing offers and find themselves in over their heads before they know it. This mistake won’t just damage your credit score for years to come but will immediately result in late fees and higher interest rates, which can add up quickly and dig students into a financial hole.

College students should stick to opening a student credit card with a modest limit and competitive rate that they can use sparingly, setting good habits for the future as they slowly but surely raise their credit score.

3. Keep an Eye out for Identity Theft

According to a Javelin Strategy and Research report, 22 percent of students in 2014 were denied credit or contacted by a debt collector due to identity theft and fraud. The study additionally found that compared to older age groups, 18-to 24-year-olds take nearly twice as long to detect identity theft, potentially making the extent of the fraud against them more significant.

To help avoid identity theft, college students should take steps to keep their personal information safe. This includes properly disposing of sensitive documents like bank statements and avoiding free standing ATMs, which are known to be easily compromised.

Students should also carefully review their account and credit card statements each month. It may be habit to simply skim to the bottom of your statement, find your balance, make a payment and then not give your bill a second thought. However, while your balance may have seemed about right, it’s important to know that fraud is often perpetrated in small amounts. Taking the time to go through your statement line by line is the best way to find any suspicious activity.

In addition to monthly statements, college students should review their credit score every 12 months. It’s easy and free! Like all consumers, students are privy to a free credit report each year, which can be accessed through any one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

4. Set up Alerts

Making payments on time and managing your accounts periodically will not only improve your credit score, but will help you avoid unnecessary fees and penalties. However, balancing classes and newfound responsibilities can make it tough for college students to stay on top of billings cycles and due dates. To stay organized, take advantage of text and email alerts to set up reminders.

5. Get Creative with Textbooks

Textbooks can be a major expense for students, especially if they purchase new copies at the campus bookstore. To help minimize this cost, students can look to buy used copies online, rent their books or even purchase the electronic versions. These alternatives may save hundreds of dollars every semester.

If you do choose to go the route of buying your textbooks, consider selling them at the end of your semester. Many college bookstores have buyback programs that can assist with this or students can look to online resources.

6. Take Advantage of Student Perks

Being a student can come with some serious money-saving perks. Your student ID may get you discounts at retailers, while the campus fitness center can save you the cost of a gym membership and a meal plan is often times cheaper than eating out.

Your school may also offer money-saving amenities. Keep an eye out for resources like free tutoring and check the student activities calendar for inexpensive student events, including concerts and festivals, which are both fun and budget-friendly!

POSTED: Jun 14, 2017
Six Budget-Friendly Activities for Your Summer in NYC

Having a little fun in the Big Apple without breaking the bank! Whether you’re a native to the five boroughs or just visiting for a day, we came up with some great activities that’ll make you and your budget happy.

Check them out here!

Take Day trip to Governor’s Island: Visit this small island off the tip of lower Manhattan to walk, bike, learn up on its Revolutionary War history, lounge in a Hammock or enjoy a picnic.
Price: Free if you take the Manhattan ferry at 10am, 11am, or 11:30am on Saturdays and Sundays, or the 11am or 11:30am from Brooklyn’s Pier 6. Otherwise it’s a $2 round-trip ferry fare.

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

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

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

Enjoy Movie Night in a Park: From family friendly animated films to classic comedies and foreign flicks, outdoor movie nights pop up all across the city during the summer months. To plan a free movie night with friends and family, visit nycgovparks.org .
Price: Free!

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

POSTED: Mar 03, 2017
Shared Secured Loans

If you’ve struggled with your credit history, you’re certainly not alone. According to a recent study, more than 68 million Americans have a poor credit score of 600 or lower. Whether an individual has demonstrated poor long-term financial habits or has simply dealt with an unexpected expense, a low credit score can have many repercussions. This may include difficulty being approved for loans, higher interest rates, more expensive insurance premiums and even being passed over for a job.

For many looking to get back on track with their finances, a shared secured loan is an important financial product that can not only help rebuild credit but also offer a means to a line of credit at a lower interest rate. This is because it uses funds in a savings account — either a share account, share certificate account or money market account — as collateral for your loan.

The Benefits of a shared secured loan may include:

• The funds borrowed can be used for virtually anything

• The collateral from your share account qualifies you for a lower rate than an unsecured loan

• The maximum amount of money loaned is based on your deposit

• You continue to earn dividends on the full balance in your account

• As payments are made to the principal of the loan, funds are released back into your savings.

• Direct deposit or payroll deduction are available

While the benefits of a shared secured loan are significant, borrowers should also know:

• Shared secured loans do not boost your credit score as significantly as an unsecured loan.

• A shared secured loan on your record may demonstrated to lenders that you did not qualify for any other loan based on your income or credit.

• Like an unsecured loan, late payments on a shared secured will result in consequences.

Like all financial products, shared secured loans may vary on a case by case basis. To learn more about how an MCU Shared Secured Loan may work for you, visit nymcu.org today!

POSTED: Nov 10, 2016
MCU’s Winter Energy-Saver Tips

When temperatures begin to dip, hot cocoa won’t be enough to keep you warm for long, which means you could be seeing a spike in your energy bill. In fact, according to the Energy Information Administration, around 42% of all home energy costs are directly related to heating and cooling.

As New Yorkers dig deep into their bank accounts to keep warm in the winter, we’ve come up with a few easy tips that will help keep your homes warm and your savings safe this season. Check them out below!

Air seal and insulate your home

Noticed a draft lately? Air that leaks through your home's envelopes - the outer walls, roof, windows, doors, and other openings – allows heat to easily escape. It might not seem like much but even small air leaks waste a lot of energy and increases your utility costs. A well-sealed envelope, coupled with the right amount of insulation, can help keep heat sealed into your home and make a real difference on your utility bills. To get started, cover up any openings under doors, around windows. If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, damper when not in use, close the damper when it’s not in use.

As an added bonus, sealing leaks and adding insulation will also reduce outside noise and improve humidity control throughout your home.

Invest in a programmable thermostat

According to the U. S Department of Energy, lowering your home’s thermostat by 10-15 degrees while you’re at work, asleep or away can reduce your energy bill by nearly 10 percent!

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

Open the Curtains During the Day, Close them at Night

Opening your curtains won’t just brighten up your living space, it also helps your home receive free heat from natural light. By allowing the sun to shine in, you’ll not only save money from keeping your lights off during the day, but you’ll be sure to keep your home a bit warmer. In the evening, close your curtains – they’ll help to keep some of the heat from escaping.

Move Furniture Away from Vents

You may not know it but it may be time to rearrange your furniture. No, we’re not talking about making your living room Feng Shui-friendly. Take a look around your home and try to spot any large pieces of furniture that may be blocking the heating vents. Moving these pieces may help circulate warmer air in homes that have forced-air central heating.

POSTED: Sep 16, 2016
Financial Tips for a Stress-Free Vacation

Planning a getaway? Whether it’s a brief weekend out of town or a trip around the world, these money tips can help keep your vacation stress-free. After all, that’s what a vacation is all about!

1. Let us know you’re traveling!

Our priority is protecting your money and personal information. One way that we do this is by keeping an eye on card transactions in order to spot irregular activity and detect fraud. If you’re traveling, your card activity is almost certainly going to look abnormal and may result in a hold being placed on your card or account for security purposes. This is especially true if you’re traveling abroad or a significant distance from your home.

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

2. Sign up for MCU Online Banking and download our mobile app

Downloading our mobile banking app means you can take a break from snapping photos on your phone and log into your accounts quickly and easily. This can help you manage your money when there isn’t a branch nearby or when taking the time to call into our contact center may be inconvenient.

A great vacation tool for staying on top of your accounts for day-to-day transactions and handle emergency situations? We think yes.

3. Preorder tickets and excursions

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

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

4. Be mindful of important documents and currency

Before traveling, be sure to make copies of important documents including your passport, credit cards and drivers license. Leave one copy with a friend or relative at home and bring the other copy with you. If you can, keep these documents in a hotel room safe. Do not carry them with you – it will leave you especially vulnerable if you lose your wallet or bag or fall victim to a pickpocket.

If you are planning to mostly use cash on your trip, you can save yourself stress and aggravation by ordering foreign currency ahead of time. For the same reasons that you must be mindful of your documents, don’t carry large amounts of cash at once.

5. Plan Ahead With a Vacation Club Account

The best way to have a financially stress-free vacation? Plan ahead.

Opening an MCU Vacation Club Account means putting away a little bit each month in an easy and convenient Check out the benefits below:

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

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

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

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

POSTED: Jun 17, 2016
Four Things to Do When You Lose Your Wallet

Reaching for your wallet and realizing that it’s lost – or even worse, stolen – can feel like a nightmare. You may be ready to panic but consumers should resist the urge. Taking a few important steps as soon as possible will help to protect your personal and financial information and replace important documents quickly.

1. Contact your financial institutions or debit or credit card issuers.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, if you report the loss of a debit card before someone illegally uses it, you’re not responsible for any unauthorized transactions. Similarly, under the Fair Credit Billing Act, credit card holders aren’t liable for any expense incurred if their credit card information is stolen and used to make purchases as long as they have reported the card lost or stolen ahead of time. To report a lost or stolen credit card to MCU, call (800) 449-7728. To report your MCU Debit Card lost or stolen, call (212) 693-4900.

2. Replace your driver’s license or ID.

A trip to the DMV to replace a lost license or photo ID can stressful and inconvenient. Luckily, New Yorkers can now quickly begin the process of replacing these important documents simply by visiting the New York State DMV Website. If you’re worried that your ID was stolen, you can help protect your personal identity by filing a report with your local police department. In some instances, this may even come with the added benefit of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) waiving your replacement fee. For more information on how to replace a New York State Driver’s License or Photo ID or on the steps you can take to report this document stolen, learn more here.

3. Pull your credit scores.

Disabled debt and credit cards may protect your finances but they can still be used by criminals to steal your identity and open lines of credit in your name. In an effort to protect your personal and financial information, it’s recommended to set up a fraud alert with one of the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax or TransUnion. It’s also important to check for any strange activity on your accounts and credit report throughout the year, even after the 90-day fraud alert expires.

Learn more about how to recognize identity theft here.

4. Social Security Card Missing Too?

If it can be avoided, your social security should never be carried around in a wallet. If an identity thief gains access to this information, he or she can easily open credit accounts in your name. If your social security card went missing with the rest of your wallet, look into applying for a credit freeze, which will prevent anyone from applying for credit under your name using this information. Using a credit freeze as precaution will come with a small fee, depending on the state you live in. However, it’s free to replace your social security card up to three times a year.

POSTED: Nov 06, 2014
Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Buying a home is an exciting milestone in a person’s life. Nevertheless, the process of obtaining a mortgage – especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer – can be a confusing and frustrating one. Luckily, there are some easy steps and tips you can follow to make your dream of becoming a homeowner an easier and stress-free experience.

1. Never underestimate your ability to become a homeowner.

Many people don’t know if they are financially ready to pursue homeownership and are hesitant to find out. However, you may be surprised to learn that there are several factors and qualification that will determine if you could be approved for a mortgage. This includes credit, assets and income. The key to starting the process is to get educated! It may seem overwhelming but resources are available, including MCU’s First-Time Homebuyers Seminar Series.

2. Get familiar with the mortgage process and requirements.

Many first time homebuyers don’t realize the necessary steps they’ll have to take and the materials they’ll need to provide throughout the mortgage approval process. This can cause delays, setbacks and a lot of frustration.

To start, homebuyers should contact their financial institution to find out the necessary requirements and deliverables. As a rule of thumb, most lenders will check a potential homebuyer’s credit; employment history; current income; and assets, including bank accounts, stocks, mutual funds and retirement accounts.

To learn more about what to expect during the home-buying process, check out our MCU 10-Step Home-Buying Checklist .

3. Understand all of the expenses you’ll be taking on.

In addition to understanding the process and deliverables associated with obtaining a mortgage, potential buyers should also take time to learn about the expenses they’ll be facing throughout the home-buying process. This won’t just prepare you for the true cost of purchasing a home, but will also give you an idea of whether or not your financial institution will think that you are financially ready.

In addition to a down payment, you’ll be expected to pay for closing costs, prepaid interest, taxes and insurance. Depending on your loan terms, you may also be required to set up an escrow account to cover property taxes and homeowners insurance.

4. Have Patience!

It is important to know that this process and can generally take anywhere between 30 – 60 days to close after receiving all the necessary documentation. Most borrowers believe the process officially begins with the first conversation they have with their loan officer. However, this is a common misconception and the process of receiving a mortgage can only begin once you’ve submitted all of the necessary documentation.

The key to homeownership is keeping a realistic outlook in terms of the home-buying experience. To learn more about how you can become a homeowner and how to obtain a mortgage, call (212) 238-3521 to speak with an MCU mortgage loan originator or learn more about our MCU Mortgage Products here .

Today’s Rates

Rates As Low As:
LOANSAPR
Auto Loan*2.09%
Personal Loan**5.95%
  1. APPLY NOW
  2. VIEW ALL
MORTGAGESAPR
30 Year Fixed4.058%
  1. APPLY NOW
  2. VIEW ALL
SAVINGSAPY***
IRA 18-Month Variable0.30%
Share Certificate 36-Month0.60%
  1. APPLY NOW
  2. VIEW ALL

* The APR for auto loans will increase by .50% after consummation if automatic payroll deduction or direct deposit is cancelled.


** The APR for unsecured loans will increase by 2% after consummation if automatic payroll deduction or direct deposit is cancelled.


***Annual Percentage Yield
Visit our Rates page for more information

  • youtube facebook
    twitter instagram

Routing Number: 226078036

  • ncua
  • home
  • youtube facebook
    twitter instagram

Routing Number: 226078036

  • verified
  • norton