Monday, December 30, 2013

A Message for Members about Account Security


The recent data breach announced by Target at its stores in the U.S. between November 27 and December 15 has created a high number of inquiries from Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union members regarding the security of their credit and debit card accounts.

We want to assure members that your accounts with us are monitored 24/7 by an experienced team of security professionals for any suspicious or potentially fraudulent activity. Mid- Minnesota employs the most advanced fraud detection and prevention technology to guard members’ credit and debit accounts against unauthorized access and use.

Here’s a quick update for your peace of mind:

· We are aware of the accounts that are known to have been used at Target stores on the dates noted above and we are watching the activity on these accounts closely; affected members have been contacted by mail on Dec. 27, 2013.

· Unless you see any suspect transactions on your Mid-Minnesota credit or debit accounts, there is no need to call.

· If our security team observes any unusual activity on member accounts, we will contact members immediately to determine whether the transaction activity is legitimate and authorized.

· It is also a good practice for members to keep a watchful eye on their accounts and transactions and look for any unauthorized activity or purchases.

We will continue to monitor all members’ accounts for suspicious activity. Thank you for being a valued member of Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union.

We're with you all the way!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Setting Financials Goals for 2014!


New Years is just around the corner! Have you had time to set your personal finance goals for 2014? Here are our 4 tips to successfully achieve your new years resolutions:

1. Create a Financial Plan

Determine your overall goal. Generate a list of your short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals that are realistic and specific. Once you know how much you need to save and how long it will take to save it, you can set a specific monthly savings goal.

2. Set Specific Savings Goals

Make a budget- plan where you are going to spend your money and stick with it! You should be saving 10% of your income each month, this money will add up quickly. Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to reaching your overall goal!

3. Get out of Debt
Make a list of your debts and sort them by annual interest rate. Debt with the highest interest rate should be the one you begin to pay off first. Pay as much over the minimum payment as you can. Pay off debt faster by increasing your income or reducing your expenses.

4. Get Control of Your Spending

Write down what you make and spend for two months. Look carefully at how you’re spending money and lose the items that are preventing you from reaching your overall financial goals. Use personal finance programs that have money management features- these will help you organize your finances and track where your money is going.





Credit Card Security


As many of us may have heard, the news is reporting a possible debit/credit card security compromise at Target stores. Target has been made aware of a possible compromise on debit & credit cards used in their brick and mortar stores (not online purchases) between the dates of 11/29-12/15.

As of now, MMFCU is unaware of any MMFCU cardholders that have been affected by the Target Security compromise. However, we thought this would be a good opportunity to bring up the best practices regarding credit card security. Below are our recommendations:

1. Monitor your credit and debit cards from all financial institutions. If you see unusual activity, contact the credit union or the financial institution issuing the card immediately.

2. Watch your credit report via www.annualcreditreport.com for future account openings. This is a FREE service to review your credit report annually.

3. To deactivate a MMFCU credit or debit card during non-business hours call, 1-866-820-3862.

4. Be aware of credit scams. MMFCU will not ask for any personal information via phone or e-mail that you the member has not initiated. If you are unsure if the call or e-mail is legitimate, call your local MMFCU branch at a phone number you retrieve from mmfcu.org or local phone book. Do not return calls via a phone number provided by the "in-question" call or e-mail.

5. Review Questions & Answers from VISA and best practices regarding card security.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

7 Holiday Money Saving Tips

Is the financial stress of the holiday season giving you a few reasons to be less than cheerful? You shouldn’t have to start the New Year off with a pile of debt. Your local Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union has a few opportunities and helpful tips to give yourself a gift, and some piece of mind this holiday season:

Decide How Much You Can Spend


Most people begin their holiday shopping by coming up with a list of people to buy for. Instead, think about how much you are willing to spend first, and remember to include all the little extras that come along with the holidays (cards, postage, food, travel, etc.)

Make a List. Check it Twice (at least) 

Free Printable!

Once you have a budget worked out, make a list of those you want to shop for, then go over the list and decide how much you can spend on each person. Once you set a dollar amount, don’t go over it. If you can’t afford the sweater little Suzie wants this year, get her something else- focus on the amount to spend, not what to buy.

Pay Cash


Once you have a budget, take cash out. Once that money is gone, you’re done. Using cash while you are shopping puts into perspective how much you are spending at a time better than credit or debit cards.

Skip-a-Payment


Sounds irresponsible, right? Our skip-a-payment program lets you skip up to two payments this holiday season on a variety of MMFCU loans. It’s a fast and convenient way to get a little extra cash for holiday spending. Apply online or over the phone.

Don’t Overlook the Value of Intangibles


Do you want to give someone a gift but don't have the money? If you're already baking cookies for your family, bake another batch for co-workers or neighbors. Offer to babysit for a friend, walk the dog, or take an elderly relative for an outing. The gift may be free, but the meaning is priceless.

Holiday Cash Loans 


MMFCU has Holiday Cash loans available November 1 through December 24, 2013 with a minimum of $500 and a maximum of $1,000 per individual (or up to $2,000 jointly) with rates as low as 2.99%. The best part is you have up to ten months to pay it back! With any loan, certain restrictions apply and you will need credit approval.

Say NO to Toy Lust


With children so into technology these days, some of the items on their gift list can be pretty astronomical. Teach your children to set real-world wish lists with financial boundaries. Not only are you saving money in the end, but you can teach your child about real world limits and the value of a dollar.

Don’t let money get in the way of holiday spirit and time spent with family and friends. Take advantage of some of these simple tips and you won’t have to worry about paying off this year’s holiday merriment next year!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why Opening an IRA Savings Account Pays Off


Although Individual Retirement Accounts or IRAs are more popular among adults, the benefits are just as important to young individuals! Opening an IRA savings account may not show immediate benefits for young individuals, but if they start saving now, they will have a larger savings to dip into in the future! What makes IRAs such a great retirement savings tool is the special federal tax laws governing the taxation of amounts earned within an IRA. Earnings within Traditional IRAs are tax-deferred until they are distributed from the Traditional IRA. Earnings within Roth IRAs may be distributed tax-free, and Coverdell Education Savings Accounts generally are not subject to federal taxes as long as they are used for qualified education expenses..

Here are 3 reasons why young individuals should open an IRA savings account:

Financial Responsibility

Opening an IRA savings with your child, or talking with them about an IRA will teach them important lessons they can carry with them in the future. They can learn how to earn, save, and spend money wisely. They will also learn more about taxes and retirement. This will give them tools to make more responsible financial decisions as they start living on their own.

Secure Finances for the Future

If young individuals start saving now, they may have a nice amount of money to help them with college expenses or other big purchases. Also, when the time comes to put money toward their first home, young individuals can feel comfortable knowing they have started to set money aside that could potentially be used to offset these expenses.

Finances for Retirement

As they grow older and become adult earners, the contributions to their IRA will probably increase and continue to build to their savings. Even though retirement is probably not in the back of their minds right now, young individuals will be happy they started their IRA savings when they are able to retire comfortably and securely. They can spend more of their time enjoying retirement instead of worrying about finances!

Making the decision to open an IRA savings account will benefit young individuals, not only now, but well into their futures. Building responsible financial habits and knowing they have secure finances for the future can make any young individual feel successful and accomplished! For more information on IRA savings accounts and how to open one, visit our website or come see us at any MMFCU location!

As with any tax-related investment, consult your tax advisor for complete qualifications and penalties.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Should You Refinance Your Home?



Refinancing your home has the potential to save you thousands of dollars but there are situations where refinancing might not be right for you...

Refinancing is NOT advised if:
  • You’ve had your mortgage for a long time. Later in your mortgage more of your payment goes toward principal reduction. 
  • Your current mortgage has a prepayment penalty. Often times the prepayment penalty will outweigh the benefits of refinancing. 
  • You plan to move within the next few years. Lower monthly payments might not outweigh the costs of refinancing. Use the break-even calculator to determine if it would be worthwhile for you. 
If the above scenarios do not apply to you, refinancing could be a smart move. The following are a list of the benefits refinancing could provide:
  • Lower your interest rate. Typically the lower the interest rate, the lower the payment. Lower interest rates are possible because of market changes and improved credit scores. 
  • Adjust the length of your mortgage. 
    • Increase the term of your mortgage: This will reduce your monthly payment. It will also increase the duration of your payments and the total amount you pay for your home.
    • Decrease the term of your mortgage: This will reduce your interest rate, shorten the duration of your loan and reduce the total you pay for your home. However, it will increase your monthly payment. 
  • Change your mortgage type. With an adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM, your monthly payments will change as the interest rate changes. If you switch to a fixed-rate mortgage you are guaranteed your mortgage will be the same each month. 
  • Get an ARM with better terms. Not all ARMs are created equal. If you want to stick with an ARM you may be able to find one with a lower starting interest rate, smaller interest rate range or lower payment caps. 
  • Cash in on Equity. When you refinance for more than you owe, you can receive the difference in a cash payment. You can use this money to pay off other debt, however you will have less equity in your home (“A Consumers Guide to Mortgage Refinancing” The Federal Reserve Board). 
If you still have questions and are unclear if refinancing is in your best interest, don't be afraid to use the staff members at MMFCU as a resource. We're with you all the way!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union - Visa Debit Card

Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union has been helping our customers take charge of their financial future by utilizing all of our helpful information, tools and resources. One of our greatest features is our free VISA Debit Card.



You can use your VISA Debit Card almost anywhere in place of writing checks. It looks just like a credit card, but acts like a checkbook! By using your VISA Debit Card you will avoid the hassle of writing out and reordering checks - saving you time. Plus, MMFCU Visa Debit cards add protection and safety by having one card for all of your ATM and purchase transactions.

Visit our ATM locator to find one near you or simply text a street address or zip code or "City State" to 692667 (my coop) to find the closest location.

We also offer lots of great services to keep track of your spending on your Visa Debit Card, such as 24 hour phone teller service and pc teller online account access. You can transfer funds, check your balance, make payments, print statements, and much more from the convenience of your computer or phone, 24/7. Plus, there are never any annual fees or monthly service charges.


Perhaps the most exciting new feature of our Visa Debit Cards is the new and improved Design Your Own Card (DYOC) program! It's an easy, online process that lets you upload any photo you'd like to put on your personalized Photo Debit Card, all for the same cost as a replacement card (Just $5!) The program allows you to get creative. Use family photos, pictures of pets, or a favorite sports teams- almost anything to make your MMFCU Visa Debit Card your very own!

Log in to PC Teller to get started!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Don't Tax My Credit Union


The tax reform currently in action at the hands of congressional lawmakers is causing an all-out war between banks and credit unions. The American Bankers Association began advertising its anti-credit union message throughout Washington, and last month ABA executives wrote letters to President Barack Obama and Congress. The issue is whether or not long time tax-exempt credit unions should continue to hold their federal tax exempt status. The ABA claims credit unions offer the same products as banks, therefore should pay the same taxes as banks. They also state that the tax-exempt status costs taxpayers $2 billion dollar a year.





In truth, banks are treated like any other profit making enterprise (and therefore are taxed accordingly), while credit unions are member owned and pay no federal taxes. This is because credit unions invest their profits back into their banking services by offering higher interest rates on deposit accounts and lower rates on loans – something the average banking institution cannot compete with. Banks say credit unions have been snatching customers because of the consumer frustration over rising fees and outrage, though in truth credit unions have grown only a tenth of a percent in America’s financial assets (totaling 2.1%) in the last ten years (The typical credit union has $4 million in assets, while the average bank holds $250 million). The American bankers association also fails to mention that for every dollar in new taxes the government might gain in federal taxes from credit unions, it would be eliminating $10 of credit union member benefits. That seems quite disheartening, considering credit unions started as a means to help meager income families, small businesses and seniors on fixed income who have been traditionally underserved and rejected by banks. As Chuck Albrecht (CEO/President of MMFCU) puts it, “Our not-for-profit status ensures that we can continue to focus single-mindedly on delivering value for our members.”

Credit unions are standing united. Don’t Tax My Credit Union is a national campaign dedicated to ensuring Congress doesn’t raise taxes on 96 million credit union members nationwide and preserves financial choice for American consumers. You can make a difference- start protecting your credit union today! Personally tell our elected officials at both the state and federal levels about the importance of credit unions’ not-for-profit status to ensure they stay that way! Click here to get started: http://www.donttaxmycreditunion.org/








Monday, September 16, 2013

Filling in the Gap Responsibly


The 2013 school year is in full swing! It’s never too late, or early, to start thinking about how best to pay for your education. Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union recommends students plan out their college financial strategy in three steps: Maximize free money, utilize cheap money next, and then fill in the gaps!


Maximize Free Money


Start your search for college cash with scholarships and grants, which means no out of pocket expenses for you and you don’t have to repay them. Keep in mind, however, that if you are awarded a scholarship or grant, your college will deduct that amount from the financial aid they would otherwise have given you.

Here are different programs worth your time to take advantage of:


Utilize Cheap Money Next


Federal student loans would be the next place to look after searching for “free” money through local scholarships, grants, etc. Here are the two most common:

  • Direct Student Loans (Stafford) Offered by the Federal Government, these low-interest loans come in two different options:

  1. Direct Subsidized Loans 
-Financial need requirement
-Interest is paid by the gov’t while you are enrolled, during the six months grace period, and in deferment.

          
             2.   Direct Unsubsidized Loans
- No financial need requirement
- Student is responsible for paying the interest that accumulates while they’re enrolled, during the grace period, and during deferment. 

  • Perkins The Federal Perkins loan has a lower interest rate and longer grace period than the standardized direct loans, but is not subsidized. Exceptional financial need is required and determined by the student’s FASFA information. 

Fill the Gap Responsibly 


After utilizing free and cheap money, for many students there are still expenses remaining. This is where alternative loan options come in. Here are the two most common types:

  • Private These are not offered through the federal government, so it is important to look for a loan program from an institution you trust. 
- Look for a loan with zero origination and other additional fees, low interest rates, flexible deferment and repayment options, and an easy application process.
- Compare all options with MMFCU’s Student Choice Private Lending Solution. This program offers zero origination fees, low interest rates, and flexible repayment options. 

  • Federal Plus (Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students) These loans are in your parent’s name, cannot be transferred to the student, and include origination and other fees.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mid Minnesota Federal Credit Union is Going Social!



In an effort to enhance membership experience and build relationships, we are excited to announce that Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union (MMFCU) has joined the social media revolution!

We now provide additional communication and valuable information via the following social media platforms:
Not only is this environmentally friendly, it will provide "fans" and "followers" helpful tools and resources to gain a brighter financial future! Our social media platforms will allow us to provide current and useful messages about our credit union including:
  • Financial Education
  • Employee Updates
  • Community Involvement
  • What are members are saying
  • Important Notifications
  • Special Offers
  • And more!
If you like helpful, timely, and FREE information- simply like, follow, subscribe, etc. to our social media platforms!



Mid Minnesota Federal Credit Union- We're with you all the way!


Friday, August 9, 2013

The Credit Union Difference

Pequot Lakes Branch

Whether you belong to a Credit Union or not, many of us are unaware how they differ from banks. Although both offer seemingly similar services, there are some quite distinct differences between the two. To better determine which option is best for you, let’s take a look at some of the basics:

· Credit Unions are member-owned. Banks are owned by stockholders. 

Everyone who has an account is a member, or owner, of the Credit Union. Members can vote for Credit Union directors to help run their financial institution. 



· Credit Unions are not-for-profit. Banks exist to make a profit.

The primary goal of a Credit Union is service, not profit. Credit Unions can frequently offer better rates on savings and loans because the focus is off the bottom line.

· Credit Unions are limited in who they can serve. Banks can usually serve anyone. 

Not everyone can be a member of any Credit Union. A Credit Union’s charter explains exactly who they serve. Mid-Minnesota requires members to live, work, worship, or attend school in the geographic regions they serve (Cass, Wadena, Crow Wing, Todd, Douglas, Morrison), or are a blood relative of someone who meets those guidelines. A Simple $5.00 deposit is all that is required. 

· Credit Unions elect volunteers to represent members. Banks pay directors to serve.

The Credit Union Board of Directors is made up of regular members who meet monthly to determine and act on a variety of issues. The Mid-Minnesota Board of Directors is made up of unpaid volunteers who take on fiduciary responsibility in setting the direction of credit union policy and much more. The board consists of members from varyings communities throughout Central Minnesota. 



· Credit Unions primarily serve the consumer market. Banks focus on business.

Credit Unions came into existence because individuals felt under-served by banks.

Jeanne Lee, Little Falls Branch Manager
With so many distinguishing factors, it’s surprising how few people are aware of the differences between Credit Unions and Banks. It is also surprising how many individuals overlook the benefits that Credit Unions offer. While accessibility is greater at a bank that serves a much larger geographical region, the benefits a Credit Union offers more than makes up for that. Who wouldn’t want their earnings returned with lower loan rates, higher savings rates, and free or low-cost services? The choice is simple, Credit Unions work for you!