Category Archives: Educational

Why Does My Credit Score Matter?

Your credit score affects just about every facet of your life, so knowing what causes it to rise or fall is important.

Your credit score is made up of three numbers, serving as an indicator of your financial history, wellness and responsibility. These three little numbers can spell the difference between approval and rejection for a mortgage, a job, a rental unit and so much more.

We have outlined how your credit score is calculated, why it matters and steps you can take to improve your score.

How is my credit score calculated?

There are three major credit bureaus in the U.S.: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Each one collects and shares information about your credit usage with potential lenders and financial institutions. Most lenders use this information along with the FICO scoring model to calculate your credit worthiness. Some lenders use the VantageScore model instead of FICO.

While there are several slight differences between the FICO and the VantageScore formulas, both scoring models look at the following factors when calculating your score:

  • The age of your credit. How long have you had your oldest credit card? When was your first loan? An older credit history generally boosts your score.
  • The timeliness of your bill payments. Are you paying all of your monthly bills on time? Chronic late payments, particularly loan and credit card payments, can drastically reduce your score.
  • The ratio of your outstanding debt to available credit. The VantageScore formula views consumers with a lot of available credit as a liability, while the FICO formula considers this a point in your favor.
  • The diversity of your credit. Lenders want to see that you have and have had several kinds of open credit. For example, you may be paying down an auto loan, a student loan and using three credit cards.
  • The trajectory of your debt. Are you accumulating new debt each month, or slowly working toward paying down every dollar you owe?
  • Your credit card usage. Financial experts recommend having several open credit cards to help boost your credit score, but this only works if you actually use the cards and pay off your bills each month. It doesn’t help much to have the cards sitting in your wallet.

How does my credit score affect my life?

Your credit score serves as a gauge for your financial wellness to anybody who is looking to get a better idea of how responsible you are with your financial commitments.

Here are just some ways your credit score can affect your day-to-day life:

  • Loan eligibility. This is easily the most common use for your credit score. Lenders check your score to determine whether you will be eligible for a loan. The larger the loan, the stricter the requirements. A poor credit score can hold you back from buying a house, a car, or getting a personal loan at USAgencies Credit Union.
  • Interest rates on loans. Here too, your credit score plays a large role in your financial reality. A higher score can get you a lower interest rate on your loan, and a poor score can mean paying thousands of extra dollars in interest over the life of the loan.
  • Employment. A study by the Society for Human Resources Management found that 47 percent of employers look at the credit scores of potential employees as part of the hiring process.
  • Renting. Many landlords run credit checks on new tenants before signing a lease agreement. A poor credit score can prevent you from landing that dream apartment or it can prompt your landlord to demand you make a higher deposit before moving in.
  • Insurance coverage. Most insurers will check your credit before agreeing to provide you with coverage. Consumer Reports writes that a lower score can mean paying hundreds of dollars more for auto coverage each year.

How to improve your credit score

If you’re planning on taking out a large loan in the near future, applying for a new job, renting a new unit or you just want to improve your score, follow these steps:

  • Pay your bills on time. If you have the income to cover it but find getting things paid on time to be a challenge, consider using automatic payments.
  • Pay more than the minimum payment on your credit cards. Your credit score takes the trajectory of your debt into account. By paying more than just the minimum payment on your credit cards, you can show you’re working on paying down your debt and help improve your score.
  • Pay your credit card bills before they’re due. If you can, it’s best to pay your credit card bills early. This way, more of your money will go toward paying down your outstanding balance instead of interest.
  • Find out if you have any outstanding medical bills. You may have an unpaid medical bill you’ve forgotten about. These can significantly drag down your credit score, so be sure to settle any outstanding medical bills as quickly as possible.
  • Consider debt consolidation. If you’re paying interest on multiple outstanding debts each month, you may benefit from paying off your debt from taking out a personal loan at USAgencies Credit Union. This way, you’ll only have one low-interest payment to make each month. (Note: If you’ll be applying for a large loan within the next few months, it’s better not to open any new cards.)

It’s crucial that you make the effort to improve and maintain your credit score. It’s more than just a number; it will impact your financial wellness for years to come.


As a member of USAgencies Credit Union, you have free access to your credit score and credit report through our Online and Mobile Banking.

Do you have questions about membership or your USAgencies accounts? Connect with us at 503-275-0300 Option 4, or visit our branch at 95 SW Taylor St., Portland, OR. We look forward to hearing from you!

7 Wonders of Oregon – USAgencies version

Did you know March 8 is National Oregon Day? Oregon, also known as The Beaver State, became the 33rd state to join the union on February 14, 1859. Oregon is known for its diverse landscape of mixed forests, volcanoes, mountains, beaches and more!

To celebrate our beautiful state in the Pacific Northwest, our team would love to share some of their favorite places (and photos) with you!

Wreck of the Peter Iredale

Peter Iredale Ft Steven
Photo by Cindy, Director of Member Services at USAgencies

A landmark on the North Oregon Coast, Peter Iredale Shipwreck, located within Fort Stevens State Park, the wreckage is considered one of the most accessible and long-lasting in the world.¹

The remains of the sailing ship became one of the popular attractions on the Oregon Coast. Just a few miles south of Astoria, you will see this impressive view of the wreck, including the rusted bow of the ship, which occurred more than a century ago.

Seaside Oregon

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Photo by Callie, Lending Supervisor at USAgencies

Seaside has been one of Oregon’s most visited resort cities located about 80 miles northwest of Portland. The city bursts with shops, great restaurants and tons of outdoor activities; you will never get bored exploring the town, from hiking to kayaking to Jazz Festival — this oceanfront resort has a lot to offer.

Lost Lake

Mt Hood from Lost Lake Viewpoint_edited_sm
Photo by Kathy, Vice President/CFO at USAgencies

Located in Mount Hood National Forest, which is about 10 miles northwest of Hood River County, it is known for its breathtaking view of Mount Hood. Lost Lake is also a popular campground with 125 primitive campsites, the facility is open between May through October with peak season from July to August. One of the many attractions at Lost Lake Campground is the old growth boardwalk, which is a short hike that takes you through the giant cedars and hemlocks.

Timothy Lake

Timothy Lake Hike
Photo by USAgencies hiking group

Timothy Lake is about 50 miles southeast of Portland. It has seven campgrounds which provides about 200 campsites and a few picnic areas along the lake. The hiking trail around the lake is about 13 miles which is perfect for a day hike. This 1,500-acre lake is very popular for visitors as it has a lot of recreational activities to offer — camping, hiking, paddling, horseback riding and more!

Painted Hills

Painted Hills panorama view
Photo by Andrew, Director of IT at USAgencies

Painted Hills is one of the three units of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, located 9 miles northwest of Mitchell, Oregon. The painted hills got its name after the colorful layers of its hills which correlating to different geological eras. The colors may appear to change from one visit to another, as the claystones differ with ever-changing light and moisture levels.²

Laurelhurst Park

Firwood Lake
Photo by Courtney, Support Services at USAgencies

Laurelhurst Park is a city park located in the Laurelhurst neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. The park was named the most beautiful park on the West Coast by Pacific Coast Parks Association in 1919. In 2001, Laurelhurst park was the first city park ever listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The 26-acre park includes a basketball court, picnic site, playground, soccer field, tennis court, volleyball court, and dog off-leash area.

Crater Lake

Crater Lake
Photo by Yuki, Marketing Specialist at USAgencies

Crater Lake was formed from a violent eruption triggered the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama about 7,700 years ago. Its deep blue color water and the many recreational activities it has to offer made Crater Lake one of Oregon’s most popular tourist attractions.

Visitors will find endless recreational activities all year round, including fishing, skiing, hiking, camping and more!


Spring is right around the corner, now it’s a great time to plan your trips to explore the great outdoors of Oregon!

Resources:

  1. Peter Iredale Shipwreck
  2. Painted Hills, Oregon

All You Need To Know About Certificates of Deposit

As an institution devoted to your financial wellness, USAgencies Credit Union offers several secure options for your savings. One of our most popular savings products is our certificates of deposit, commonly referred as CDs. You’ll be giving your money a great chance at growth without subjecting it to the risks of investing in the stock market.

Let’s take a closer look at how certificates work and why they might be the perfect choice for you.

What is a certificate?

A certificate is an insured savings account with a fixed dividend rate and a fixed maturity date. Rates tend to be higher than those of savings accounts. Also, unlike a savings account, your money will be less accessible when in a certificate. That means you will not be able to withdraw your funds before the maturity date without paying a penalty.

Terms and conditions of certificates

There are some nominal requirements that must be met before you can open a certificate.

First, you’ll need a minimum deposit amount. This amount will vary widely from one financial institution to the next. In general, the more money you park in a certificate, the higher rate of interest it will earn. At USAgencies Credit Union, you can open a certificate with as little as $500.

Second, you’ll need to commit to a term length. Here at USAgencies Credit Union, we offer our members certificates that can be open for just 6 months or as long as 3 years. Our interest rates start at 0.95% APY* for short-term certificates and go up to 1.56% APY* for our long-term certificates. To learn more about our terms and rates, connect with a Member Relationship Specialist today.

Is a certificate for everyone?

It’s important to note that your money will be tied up in the certificate, and you will not be able to access it without paying a penalty. A certificate works best for people who have a robust emergency fund and do not anticipate needing to access the funds in their certificate until its maturity date.

Why keep your money in a certificate?

Here are some of the most popular reasons people choose to open a certificate:

  1. No risk. While nearly every investment carries some sort of risk, your money is always safe in a certificate. Each USAgencies Credit Union certificate is federally insured by the by NCUA up to $250,000.
  2. Higher dividend rates. Certificates offer higher yields than most savings accounts.
  3. Locked-in rates. There’s no stressing over fluctuating national rates with a certificate. The APY is set when you open the account and is locked in until its maturity date.

If a certificate sounds like the perfect choice for you, connect with a Member Relationship Specialist today to find the one that fits your needs best by calling 503-275-0300 or email info@usacu.org. We’re committed to giving your money its best chance at growth.

*APY = Annual Percentage Yield. Rates are subject to change without notice.

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.

Resources:

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.

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