Category Archives: Educational

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.

School is Just Around the Corner – Plan for a Stress-Free First Day

Summertime with the kids is a time to overindulge in potato salad and hot dogs, pool parties, road trips, and staying up late to watch movies. Who was thinking about textbooks, assignments, and spelling tests? Nobody!

Then, bam! All of a sudden, it’s back to school!

With the first day right around the corner, now is a good time to start thinking about how to establish some healthy routines that will stay rooted throughout the school year.

Here are a few tips to make the first day stress-free:

  • Start talking about the return to school with your children—are they nervous, excited, anxious? Are there things you can do to relive their fears, such as visit the school, or walk or bike the safest route to school together? Plan a play date with a friend they haven’t seen since the last school year to help them reconnect.
  • Professionals advise to spend some really quality family time together in the weeks leading up the big day: play games, read together, exercise, and engage in fun family activities.
  • Start establishing earlier bedtimes well before the first day—that alarm clock buzzing early is mighty shocking to the system after a relaxing summer.
  • Get organized! Shop for school supplies way in advance and let the kids help pick out their binders and folders.
  • Get the first-day outfit ready. Shopping with your children and letting them choose a few fun items will help them feel confident.
  • Be a role model and help your kids understand all of the things to look forward to—meeting new friends, starting new activities and sports, all of the interesting things they will learn, and explore.
  • Start new eating habits and choose some healthy options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner before the school year starts.
  • If you have a childcare professional or after school care, talk to them about how your child is feeling, anything they should be aware of, and engage them in your healthier back to school routines and eating habits.
  • Pack the backpacks and lay out clothes the night before to ensure for a stress-free morning.
  • Plan a celebratory dinner the night after the first day. Eat together and talk about all of the things that happened—perhaps the kids can choose their favorite meal for the family to enjoy.
  • Stay calm, plan your own time well, and honor your needs and downtime.

Deep breaths! You got this


Connect with us to help get your child ready for their first savings or checking account to start the school year off with healthy financial habits. Call us at 503-275-0300 Option 4, or stop into our branch on the corner of 1st and Taylor to get started today! Everyone deserves a better banking experience. Get it here.

Social Security Number Scams – On the Rise

Have you received a call or voicemail from someone warning that your Social Security number or benefits are suspended due to suspicious activity? Scammers are hoping you’ll be scared into believing their claims. They usually ask you to confirm your Social Security number and pay money to “reactivate” your number, protect it, or restore your benefits.

Social Security scams now outnumber other types of scams, including Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scams, which were formerly the most common. Pretending to be a representative of the government is a common way for fraudsters to trick people into giving up their money or personal information. Knowing how to tell the difference between a scammer and a genuine call from the federal government is important.

Here are the facts:

  • The government will not threaten to take away benefits or ask for money or personal information to protect your Social Security card or benefits.
  • Scammers can fake your caller ID, so don’t be fooled if the call seems to be from the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) real phone number or the SSA Inspector General’s Fraud Hotline number. You can always call the Social Security Administration directly at (800) 772-1213 to find out if they are really trying to reach you.
  • If someone calls you asking for your Social Security number, bank account number, or credit card information, hang up.

Spread the word about Social Security scams and report them

We worked with the Social Security Administration and the Federal Trade Commission to create a new fraud prevention placemat to help you avoid Social Security scams. You can order free copies  of the placemat to use at a meal site, or to share with friends and family. The placemat is in English on one side and Spanish on the other side.

Talk about it! You may have heard of IRS scams or other types of scams targeting government benefits, but Social Security scams haven’t been as common until recently. Share the message with others to make them aware of this type of scam.

Report Social Security scams to the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov/complaint and to the SSA Office of Inspector General Fraud Hotline at (800) 269-0271 or oig.ssa.gov/report.

Brought to you by our friends at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau


Questions about your accounts? Connect with us online or via telephone at 503-275-0300 Option 4. We are here to help!