Category Archives: Educational

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.

Start Your New Year with a Fresh Savings

Start your new year off with a fresh look at your savings plans. Do you have specific savings goal or purpose? Not a big saver and want to start a new habit? At USAgencies, we have different savings options to fit your new year resolution needs.

 

SAVE 4 IT

Perfect for saving for a down payment or a home improvement project. It is structured to help you keep your savings tucked away until you’ve reached your goal.

SUPER SAVER

Did you know nearly four out of 10 adults in America don’t have enough savings to cover an expense of $400?*  You can automatically build your savings with our Super Saver and be prepared for whatever storm life brings your way.

LIFESTYLE CLUB ACCOUNTS -Spring & Fall

We’ve seen a pattern in our members’ financial lives – two times a year expenses increase – the Spring and the Fall ( think vacations, tax bills, holiday expenses, etc. ) Get a head start with our Lifestyle Club Accounts, where you can stick a little extra now for anticipated expenses later.

SAVE TO WIN

Have you been eyeing a new car or vacation but not sure if you have enough saved for it? With the Save to Win**, a prized linked savings program, you will be rewarded for saving money. With prizes ranging from $25 to $5,000, you will not only save money, but you will also gain interest and have a chance at those great cash prizes.


Ready to open your new savings account? Get started online, or connect with us at 503-275-0300 Option 4. You can also visit our branch located on the corner of 1st and Taylor in Downtown Portland! You deserve a better banking experience. Get it here. 

*Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2018

**Must be a member of USACU, an Oregon resident, and at least 18 years of age, to open a Save to Win account. Official account and prize entry rules and a complete list of prizes are available at savetowin.org. © CU Solutions Group, 2018. All rights reserved. Void where prohibited by law

A Five-Step Spending Plan to Avoid Holiday Debt

The holidays can put a financial burden even on the savviest of shoppers and savers. But like most things, taking time to plan can help you avoid the stress that comes with overspending. Before you hit the mall , keep reading to learn how to make a holiday spending plan that works for you.

1.Set a budget

First, make sure you account for all of your typical expenses so that you don’t come up short on bills or things like rent. Next, think about what else you may be spending on in the coming months. Are you hosting a party at your home, or traveling to visit family or friends? If so, estimate what those things will cost you. Once you’ve subtracted any expenses from your usual budget, you can think about how much you have to spend on gifts. It’s best to start planning this as early as possible. That way you can look at how much you’ll earn between now and the holidays and calculate how much you can save to cover your holiday spending. Being realistic about your budget will help make sure you don’t overspend.

2.Make a list ( and check it twice! )

With all of the excitement of the holidays, it can be easy to get carried away. Make a list of the gifts you need and cross them off as you go. Check your list several times before you go shopping so that you don’t leave anything off. This is when a personal rule may come in handy.  You might set a personal rule for yourself, such as: If something isn’t on your list, don’t buy it. This can get difficult when you see sales and deals pop up—but spending on something you don’t really need can make it difficult to pay for the things you do.

3.Get creative

There may be ways to give a meaningful gift at a fraction of the cost as buying something from a store. This may not work for everyone on your list, but here are some low-cost suggestions :

  • Homemade mixes in a mason jar, such as hot chocolate, bean soup, or cookie mixes
  • You favorite recipes with photos in a custom picture book
  • Knit or crochet scarves, socks or gloves.

4.Decide how you are going to pay

Are you going to use cash or credit cards to pay for gifts? A helpful rule to set for yourself is to only bring the amount of money you plan to spend. That way you can help yourself stay within your budget because once you spend the money you brought, you’re done. On the other hand, using a credit card, like our VISA Platinum Rewards, can put money in your pocket by earning you points for your purchased.  If you do decide buy your holiday gifts with a credit card, make sure you have a specific plan to pay your credit card bill and have set aside enough in your budget to do so.

5.Track your holiday spending

Just like you wrote down your lists to keep track of what you need to buy, you could also keep track of what you’ve spent. Periodically check to see if you are on track and sticking to your budget. Did you spend more or less than you thought you would on certain items? If you don’t keep track of what you spent, you could end up with an unpleasant surprise if you exceed your budget.


Check out our Money Management tool for all your budgeting needs. Questions? Connect with us 503-275-0300 Option 4 or visit our branch on the corner of  1st and Taylor in Downtown Portland!

10 Things You Can Do to Avoid Fraud

Crooks use clever schemes to defraud millions of people every year. They often combine new technology with old tricks to get people to send money or give out personal information. Here are some practical tips to help you stay a step ahead.

Spot imposters. Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government officiala family membera charity, or a company you do business with. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email. 

Do online searches. Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call.” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.

Don’t believe your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.

Don’t pay upfront for a promise. Someone might ask you to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit and loan offers, mortgage assistance, or a job. They might even say you’ve won a prize, but first you have to pay taxes or fees. If you do, they will probably take the money and disappear.

Consider how you pay. Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t. Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. That’s also true for reloadable cards (like MoneyPak or Reloadit) and gift cards (like iTunes or Google Play). Government offices and honest companies won’t require you to use these payment methods.

Talk to someone.  Before you give up your money or personal information, reach out to your credit union, a friend, or a family member talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, consult an expert — or just tell a friend.

Hang up on robocalls. If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal, and often the products are bogus. Don’t press 1 to speak to a person or to be taken off the list. That could lead to more calls.

Be skeptical about free trial offers. Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products and bill you every month until you cancel. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy. And always review your monthly statements for charges you don’t recognize.

Don’t deposit a check and wire money back. By law, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. If a check you deposit turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for repaying the bank.

Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/scamsGet the latest tips and advice about scams sent right to your inbox.

If you spot a scam, report it at ftc.gov/complaint. Your reports help the FTC and other law enforcement investigate scams and bring crooks to justice.

From our friends at the Federal Trade Commission


Questions about how to protect your USAgencies accounts from fraud? Connect with us at 503-275-0300 Option 4, visit Account Security page, or head into our branch on the corner of 1st and Taylor in Downtown Portland. 

Celebrate National Family Literacy Month

Whether it’s your toddler mesmerized by the pictures and activities of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” or his Grandpa getting lost in the mysteries of a John Grisham novel, a love for books is timeless and shared across all generations. Nothing beats curling up with a good book and exploring the countless possibilities of worlds both real and imagined.

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”- Emilie Buchwald

For many, the love for books starts at an early age in the stories our parents read to us. Providing your children with plentiful opportunities to listen to stories will help them learn to read and comprehend stories on their own. They also begin to think more actively as they listen to stories and picture the scenes described, wondering how the story will develop. When read to frequently, children can grow to love reading and will take the initiative to read more on their own.

National Family Literacy Day® is celebrated on November 1st each year and is a kickoff to National Family Literacy Month. This November, the awareness of National Family Literacy Month brings about a great opportunity for families to get back into the tradition of reading as a family.

Here are ways you can promote family literacy at home
Set aside time each day for reading.

Dedicate 30 – 60 minutes after dinner, or before bed, to read as a family. Take turns with who gets to pick the book, and read aloud as a family.

Keep books visible around the house.

Bring in bookshelves to easily store and make accessible all around the house, but keep organized as well. Hit up second hand stores for affordable books to build your family’s collection.

Make regular visits to the library.

Library memberships are free, and they often hold events and workshops for all ages to help promote reading. Head to the library on a rainy day with the family to get out of the house, but still get some reading in.

Read the book version of your child’s favorite movie.

Classics like The Wizard of Oz, Ramona Beezus and Matilda are all kid favorites when it comes to movies, but reading the books can help open a new world of imagination and new experiences.


Financial Literacy is also important. Check out our website where we offer numerous free tools for members of all ages through our friends at Greenpath. Questions? Connect with us at 503-275-0300 Option 4 or visit our branch on the corner of 1st and Taylor in Downtown Portland.

Money Management – Budget For a Brighter Future

Money Management is a tool in online banking that lets you view and track all transactions from USACU and external accounts — for FREE. You will be able to receive valuable insights and reports about your finances, ensuring you’re in control of your financial life.

ACCOUNTS — Gives you an overview of all your accounts. Not only will you be able to view your USACU accounts, you can also link and view accounts from external financial institutions. Data will automatically update every time you visit the Money Management feature in online or mobile banking.

TRANSACTIONS — Money Management gives you a quick overview of recent spending on all your accounts, and the ability to search or filter for specific transaction. Transactions will be automatically categorized for you.

SPENDING — The spending wheel helps you identify the biggest expenses but also dives into the smallest details, so you can spend smarter.

BUDGETS — Track your budget with color bubbles to help you understand the relative health of your budgets instantly. You can use sub-budgets to track specific spending and see the money you have leftover to put towards goals.

TRENDS — Track spending in each category over time and get you insights of your spending habits.

DEBTS — Prioritize your debts and pay it down faster so you can save the money you would otherwise spend on interest.

Know your accounts. See all your accounts, including those outside of USAgencies’.
Money management - accounts overview

Track your budget. Color bubbles help you understand the relative health of your budgets instantly.
Money management - Budget chart

Watch your spending. Every transaction is automatically categorized so you can spend smarter.
Money Management spending chart


Climb to new heights with USAgencies’ free financial management tool, Money Management. Visualize and interact with your money in the most epic ways. Log in to online banking get started with Money Management today! 

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