4 Home Improvement Projects With High Long-Term Return

When you’re making improvements to your home, you’re not just making your life better in the short term. You’re also making an investment in your future. Ideally,  the increase in the value of your home will exceed the cost of the improvement.

However, it seldom works out like that. The most efficient home improvements don’t pay for themselves immediately. The first item on this list has an ROI of 98%. That means you get back 98% of the money you put into it. To look at it another way, you lose 2% of your initial investment.

It takes years for the appreciation in your home to recoup the expense of an improvement. If you’re looking for an investment, putting your money in a share certificate or other long-term investment options will net you more. When you’re making home improvements, though, you’re looking for ways to improve your quality of life while being as thrifty as possible.

Here are four home remodel projects that can improve the resale value of your home. They’re excellent uses for your home equity line of credit (HELOC) and you may be able to save money by doing part or all of them yourself! By the way, consult your tax adviser to determine if these improvements apply for tax deductions.

Replace the front door

There’s an old adage in real estate that suggests the features get tours, but the front porch gets sales. People make decisions on home-buying all the time by starting with a gut reaction and finding reasons to support it later.

Why not start your home remodeling project with the first thing you interact with on your house: the front door. Upgrading an old, poorly-fitting front door with a newer energy-efficient model is a cheap, quick project that can instantly improve your home’s efficiency and aesthetic appeal. Best of all, hanging a door can be done in an afternoon!

With an average price of just over $1,200, including labor, an energy-efficient front door has an ROI of 98%! It’s also a chance to be creative. A new front door can add a splash of color, and window placements can break up a monotonous front profile.

Minor kitchen remodels

Replacing major appliances and installing new flooring is a difficult, time-consuming and expensive task. Being without a kitchen for weeks on end can be a nightmare, and the number of professionals needed to install new lighting and other features is mind-boggling. The national average for spending here is $57,000, and the ROI for major kitchen remodeling isn’t great, at only 68%.

Minor kitchen upgrades, like new cabinets, countertops and energy-efficient cooktops, are comparatively inexpensive. The average spend here is just under $20,000 with an estimated return on investment at an impressive 80%. Just like with the front door, the changes are mostly aesthetic. People perceive a more modern-looking kitchen as being a better fit than a more “retro” look.

This is also a chance to customize a place where you spend a remarkable amount of time. Having a kitchen laid out just the way you like it can make it easier and more enjoyable to cook. This will encourage you to eat more meals in, and energy-efficient appliances can lower your electric bills for the life of the home.

Wooden decks

Outdoor space is one of the hallmarks of the current iteration of the American dream. Where else can a family sit and enjoy a frosty lemonade on a hot summer day? Watch the kids play in the yard while tending the grill on a beautiful wooden deck!

Wooden deck additions were unpopular for years, as consumers see them as luxuries. During a recession, remodeling dollars tend to focus on needs, like kitchen and bedroom updates. Now that the economy is improving, more people are looking at decks as valuable extensions for their living space.

The average cost, based upon a 16 foot by 20 foot wooden deck, is $12,000. The average return on investment is just over 80%. This is because of the perception of expanded living space at a reasonable price. Adding a deck costs about $40 per square foot, while a square foot of inside space costs an average of $90! Decks are a great way to increase the play space for a modest cost.

Bear in mind that, just like the air conditioning in Alaska, a deck in a climate where the climate in inhospitable outdoors for much of the year will not have as much value as one in more temperate climes.

Convert an attic space into a bedroom

For most houses, the attic is an afterthought. It’s a place where unused craft projects and abandoned hobbies go to die. Consider turning that dead space into living space with a remodeling project!

Turning an existing attic space into a spare bedroom or office, complete with its own bathroom, can be done for a slightly steeper price. Nationally, the average cost is just over $50,000. That includes constructing a room, extending utilities to it and adjusting the exterior of the house to accommodate the new space.

This remodel provides a 77% return on investment in resale value, with the potential for more. If you have adult children or relatives visiting from out of town, an attic room can be a wonderful guest room. You could also rent it out for additional income!


Are you ready to get those renovation plans rolling? Don’t miss the Portland Spring Home Show at the Portland Expo Center February 20-23, 2020. Connect with our Loan Specialists to explore your financing options for your next project by calling 503-275-0300 Option 2.

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All You Need To Know About Mobile Check Deposit

In a world where you can order almost anything through your mobile phone — from a new pair of shoes to a dining room table to tickets to a Caribbean cruise — it only makes sense for our members to have access to USAgencies Credit Union through mobile banking.

One of the most convenient features we offer through our mobile banking is check deposit. All it takes to deposit a check is a few minutes of your time and a phone with internet access.

Let’s take a closer look!

What is mobile check deposit?

Mobile check deposit is a way for you to deposit a check into your USAgencies Credit Union account from a distant location using a mobile device with internet access. You can be practically anywhere in the world and make your deposit at any time.

The process is simple: You’ll log into your USAgencies Credit Union mobile app and prepare your check for deposit. Tap on the Check Deposit icon and the app will guide you through snapping a picture of both the front and the back of the check. You’ll also be asked to verify the check amount. Once you’ve made the confirmation, your check will be submitted for deposit into your account.

It’s that easy.

The benefits of mobile check deposit

It’s not just another errand crossed off your list. Here are some of the benefits you’ll enjoy by using USAgencies Credit Union mobile check deposit:

  1. Convenience. You’re no longer bound by regular branch hours. As mentioned, you can now make your deposit anywhere, and at any time.
  2. Speed. Your check will generally clear more quickly through a mobile deposit than it will through an ATM deposit.
  3. Accuracy. There’s no room for errors when it comes to mobile check deposit. You’ll be asked to confirm the check amount in case the character-recognition software is not reading it correctly. On the small chance that an error occurs, you’ll still have the physical check, which you can then deposit at USAgencies Credit Union.

But is it safe?

If you’re worried about sending a personal check through the airwaves, you can rest easy. Your safety is always our priority, and we take multiple precautions for ensuring your personal information is protected throughout the mobile check deposit process.

First, with Fingerprint ID & Face ID (not available on all devices), there is no need to worry about stolen passwords.

Second, our mobile app does not store your check images in your phone. Once your check has been submitted, the image is erased from your phone and stored only in our own software.

Finally, if an error occurs, you’ll always have the physical check to deposit if necessary.

If you haven’t already done so, try USAgencies Credit Union mobile deposit. It’s quick. It’s easy. And it’s safe. You’ve got nothing to lose but one more errand crossed off your to-do list. Try it today!


Questions? Connect with us at 503-275-0300 Option 4. You deserve a better banking experience. Get it here.

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Did you know there were 14.4 million victims of identity theft in 2018? According to Javelin Strategy, each case cost the victim an average of $1,050 – and that’s only the cost in dollars. When an individual’s identity is stolen, the thief wreaks major havoc on the victim’s financial health, which can take months, or even years, to recover from.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent yourself from becoming the next victim. Here are a few ways to get started:

USACU_IdentityTheft_social
Identity theft is one of the most nefarious crimes out there. Check out these 7 ways to help protect yourself.

Download infographics here.


Be proactive about protecting your identity and keep your information and your money safe. For information about identity theft in general, please visit ftc.gov/idtheft.

How To Recognize And Protect Yourself From Scams

Scammers are always trying to con victims out of their information and money. They are, unfortunately, often successful. Scammers are expert impersonators, using sophisticated technology and their best acting skills to convince you they represent a business, institution or government agency you may trust. They also tend to prey on the most susceptible victims, including those who are down on their luck or are exceptionally naïve and trusting.

To help you achieve it, we’ve put together this guide about recognizing the signs of fraud and protecting yourself from scams.

Five red flags of scams

While the details surrounding the way a scam plays out can vary greatly, most follow a similar theme. They try to get victims to share personal information or to pay for a service or product that doesn’t exist. Here are five ways to spot a scammer:

  1. They ask for detailed information before agreeing to process an application.
  2. They insist on a specific method of payment.
  3. They send a check for an inflated amount to a seller or “employee,” and then ask the victim to mail them the extra money. Of course, the original check will not clear.
  4. You can’t find any information about the company the caller allegedly represents.
  5. You’re pressured to act now.

Who are the targets?

Scammers usually cast a wide net to ensnare as many victims as possible. However, lots of scams focus on a subset of highly vulnerable targets. Here are some of the most common targets of scams:

  • The unemployed. The internet makes it easy for scammers to learn that you’re looking for a job. If you’re job hunting, be careful not to respond to any emails offering you a “dream position” you never applied for or even knew about.
  • The aging. Older people are another favorite target for scammers. Retired individuals often spend lots of time online, making them more vulnerable to scams. Also, as relative newcomers to the online world, they may be less aware of the dangers lurking on the internet.
  • Children. Sadly, the youngest members of society are another huge target pool for scammers. Children are naturally trusting and will more readily share information with strangers, which can then be used to steal their identity. Small children will likely not be checking their credit for years, which means a stolen identity can go unchecked until the child grows into a young adult. By that time their credit can be wrecked, almost beyond repair.

What do scams look like?

Here are some of the most common scams:

  • Cyberhacking. In this scam, hackers gain remote access to your computer and proceed to help themselves to your personal information.
  • Phishing scams. Scammers bait you into sharing personal information via a bogus job form, an application for a service they allegedly provide or by impersonating a well-known company or government agency.
  • Mystery shopper. A bogus company will “hire” you to purchase a specific item in a store and then report back about the service experience. Before you get started, though, you’ll have to pay a hefty fee, which you’ll never see again.
  • Job offers. Scammers “hire” you for a position and then scam you by sending you an inflated check, as detailed above.
  • Sweetheart scams. A scammer pretending to be an online lover will con you into sharing your personal information and/or sending them money and gifts.
  • Fraudulent investments. Scammers reach out to potential investors with information about lucrative investments that don’t exist.

10 ways to protect yourself from scams

  1. Never share personal information online.
  2. Don’t open unsolicited emails. If you already have, don’t click on any embedded links.
  3. Never send money by insecure means to an unknown party.
  4. Protect your devices by using the most up-to-date operating systems, choosing two-factor authentication and using strong, unique passwords for every account.
  5. Choose the strongest privacy settings for your social media accounts.
  6. Keep yourself in the know about the latest scams and learn how to protect yourself.
  7. Educate your kids about basic computer safety and privacy.
  8. If you have elderly parents, talk to them about common scams and teach them to protect themselves.
  9. If a government agency or a company calls and asks you to share personal information, tell them you’ll contact them on your own.
  10. Never accept a job or pay for a purchase or service without researching the company involved.

Above all, remember the golden rule of scams: If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.


Get into the habit of checking for the latest scam alerts on a regular basis. Once an individual falls prey to a scam, full financial recovery can take years. It’s best to protect yourself from scams before they happen by educating yourself and asking USAgencies Credit Union for help.

Member Moment: Laurie’s Story

Here at USAgencies Credit Union, our biggest priority is your financial wellness, and that includes keeping you and your money safe! Our member, Laurie, shared her experience on how we made a stressful situation painless.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
 I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and lived there most of my life until six months ago when my husband and I moved to Nevada.

Your passion.
My passions are family and exploration. I love traveling and seeing new sites. As much as I love having new areas to explore in our backyard now that we’ve moved, we miss family and friends.

What is your favorite USAgencies’ moment as a member?
I’ve been pleased with every interaction I’ve had with USAgencies from day to day banking to getting car loans and getting financial info together for home loans. My favorite moment was the way USAgencies treated me when my debit card number was stolen years ago. USAgencies was the painless part of a stressful situation and did exactly what they said they’d do.

What do you value the most about USAgencies?
What I value most about USAgencies is the personal service. Even living out of state and not being able to visit the branch, USAgencies has addressed my individual needs when I’ve called. That’s why I won’t switch credit unions.


Thanks Laurie for sharing your story and your adorable furrends.

Want to share your USAgencies moment? Submit your story to social@usacu.org or via telephone at 503-275-0300. We’d love to hear from you!

8 Creative Ways to Save on Heating Costs this Winter

Q: I’ve sealed all leaky windows and doors in my home, but my heating bill is still astronomical. Is there anything else I can do to keep my heating costs down?

A: Sealing air leaks is a great first step toward lowering your heating bill. Luckily, there are many other methods for hacking your way to a lower heating bill.

Here are some creative ways to save on heating costs.

Dust your vents
This can be an easy, effective way for lowering your heating bills. Dust acts as a natural insulator and can block some of the hot air from heating your home.

Lower your thermostat 
The Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat to 68 degrees in the winter for maximum energy savings. For every degree you crank it down over an 8-hour period throughout the month, you can shave 1 percent off your heating bill. If you can lower your thermostat by 10 degrees at night or while you’re at work, you’ll save 10 percent off your heating bill! A programmable thermostat can do the job for you so you don’t have to remember to turn it down.

Turn on your ceiling fans
Most ceiling fans are equipped with a “summer” and “winter” setting. In the wintertime, set the  blades to move in a clockwise direction so hot air, which naturally rises toward the ceiling, can be blown downward to warm up the room.

Use aluminum foil
Tape a piece of aluminum foil behind the radiator to reflect heat into the room instead of into the wall.

Use zone heating
If you live in a large home, keep the lesser-used areas just warm enough to prevent pipes from freezing. Close some of the vents in these rooms and shut the door to keep that heat in. On the flip side, open the doors of the rooms that see heavy use so hot air can flow evenly throughout the house.

Rearrange your furniture
Check if you have any furniture situated near your heating vents. You don’t want to be paying all that money just for hot air to be flowing into the underside of your living room sofa.

Let the sunshine in
The low-in-the-sky winter sun can give you hours of free solar heat each day — if you let it in. Be sure to open the curtains in the early morning hours and to close them at night to keep that warm air inside. You may also want to swap your curtains for thicker, insulated ones in the winter for further protection against the cold night air.

Humidify your air
Use humidity to your advantage by investing in a humidifier for the winter. Moisture helps to hold onto heat and will keep the air warmer longer.

So…what’s your secret heating hack? Share it with us in the comments.

Help! I Overspent On Christmas!

It’s so easy to go overboard on Christmas. If you have kids, you want everything to be perfect for them. You want to build priceless memories, so spending any amount seems worth it. Giving extravagant gifts to your family members seems like a great idea … until you’re staring at a huge credit card bill in January.

However it happened, it’s important to approach this problem rationally. Constantly blaming yourself won’t fix the problem. The important part now is to right yourself financially. You can’t take back gifts and return them at this point. You have to deal with the situation that’s in front of you.

Fortunately, you’re not alone. USAgencies Credit Union is here to help. Check out these four ways you can patch up your finances and have things right before summer.

1. Budgeting advice
It can be very tempting to make only the minimum payments on the credit card you used to buy Christmas. Unfortunately, it’s also the best way to ensure you’re in debt for all the Christmases from here on out.

Making minimum payments on credit cards prolongs the length of time you’re in debt. It also makes the total amount you pay for your debt skyrocket. Making just the minimum payment adds an extra $175 to a $10,000 balance at 21% APR.

What you need is an aggressive debt repayment plan. The question you should be asking yourself isn’t, “What’s the least I can pay on this debt?” Instead, identify the most you can afford to pay.

Making an extreme budget is usually not a good choice, but in this case, it’s essential until you get yourself out from under that holiday-fueled debt. Make some sacrifices and get ready to tighten your belt for a little while. Yeah, coming up with an extra $35 or $50 a month is tough, but it’s the easiest way to get things moving.

2. Refinancing major purchases
If you went overboard on one or two major purchases, like a car for a teen, it may not be credit card debt you need help overcoming. Slick dealers offer crazy-sounding incentives like zero down and 0% financing on cars to entice people to give cars for Christmas. Unfortunately, once you’ve signed on the dotted line, you may see you’re in for more than you can handle with a car payment.

USAgencies Credit Union can help. Our auto and other major purchase loans often feature rates that are better than those of dealerships. You may need to finance over a longer term to manage the monthly expenses, or you may just need to restructure to pay less now. Either way, you’ll find more favorable and flexible terms with us than you will at the dealer.

3. Financial counseling
Does reading those credit card statements fill you with a dizzying sense of despair? USAgencies Credit Union can help you make sense of them.

Make an appointment to speak with our Certified Financial Counselor. You’ll gain a better understanding of your rights and responsibilities. You can also come up with a realistic plan to pay off your debt and avoid falling into the same trap next year.

4. Personal loans
Instead of making dozens of minimum payments, wouldn’t it be nice to focus your debt into one manageable plan? A debt consolidation loan can do just that. Best of all, it can save you money in the long run by lowering your interest rate and monthly payment commitment. Rather than paying a credit card APR, you can get the lower fixed rate on a personal loan. Our loan specialists can help you organize and simplify your payments, working toward a debt-free life.


Is it time to buckle down your post-holiday debt and give your budget a breath of fresh air? Our Debt Consolidation loan offers you that chance. Connect with our Loan Specialist today at 503-275-0300 Option 2 to get started.

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