Category Archives: Educational

Planning the Ultimate NW Summer RV Roadtrip? Start Here First.

Looking to “get out there” this summer, and experience Pacific Northwest RV camping at its finest? Not sure how to pack it all in and narrow your list down to the best-of-the best?

Here’s a list of top NW campgrounds to get you started:

If you’re looking for the perfect Pacific Northwest road trip itinerary, these adventurers have some suggestions for things to see and do along your route:

Or maybe you want to hit the open road and keep going? Here are some ideas of where to head beyond the Northwest:

Whether you’re planning a quick weekend RV getaway in the Gorge, or you’re itching to head out on a multi-week journey from Pacific to Atlantic, planning ahead can help you maximize your summer fun.

 


Planning ahead applies to your RV purchase too. It’s a good idea to get pre-approved for a loan for your RV (or ATV, boat, jet ski or other summer toys) before you shop. Getting pre-approved ensures you know what you can afford ahead of time, allows you to stick to a pre-set budget, and ensures you’re getting a rate and payment that works best for you.

Getting pre-approved is quick, easy & smart: apply online, give us a call (503.275.0300), or stop by.

Questions? Contact us.

USACU at the 2017 GAC

At the GAC‘Powerful Cause and Positive Effect’ was the theme for this year’s Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC). USAgencies very own Kathy Scholes, Vice President/CFO; Kasey Rockwell, Director of CU Relations; and Jeff Griese, Board of Directors 1st Vice-Chair, all attended the conference late February in our nation’s capital, along with over 5,000 credit union professionals and advocates from around the U.S.

Every year credit union proponents descend upon Washington D.C. to connect with peers, glean best practices, trade stories, and gain insights of the political landscape for credit unions and the financial industry. Attendees had the opportunity to hear from great speakers such as the Honorable Colin L. Powell; Kat Cole, Group President of Focus Brands; CUNA President, Jim Nussle; and a lineup of Congressional lawmakers and regulators from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).

Scholes, Rockwell and Griese met with Oregon credit union peers to ensure the message was consistent for lawmakers before they climbed the steps of Capitol Hill. They met with Congressman Blumenauer’s (D-OR-3) Deputy Chief of Staff and Counsel, David Skillman. There were about 30 constituents in the meeting, representing nine credit unions from the Portland area. Later in the afternoon Oregon credit unions also met with Senator Ron Wyden and staff from Senator Merkley’s office to share the same message. Some of the information shared with legislators included:

  • Credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives and are inherently accountable to their members, not to Wall Street stockholders.
  • Members own their cooperative credit unions. This means financial dividends, lower interest rates on loans and higher interest rates on savings are delivered to member-owners as direct benefits.
  • The Northwest Credit Union Association recently commissioned economists at ECONorthwest to perform their second independent analysis on credit unions’ impact in our Northwest economy. They found that Oregon credit unions delivered $159 million in direct financial benefit to their 2 million member-owners. That’s $81 per credit union member and $156 financial benefit per member household, delivered through lower fees and better rates as a result of that cooperative structure.
  • The importance of Common-Sense Regulatory Reform and how one-size-fits-all regulations don’t work for small credit unions.
  • The costs of merchant data breaches and how costs should ultimately be borne by the entity that occurs the breach.

They ended the day with a reception on the Hill with credit unions from Oregon, Washington and Idaho. It was a long, but productive day!

Rockwell summed up her experience at this year’s GAC, “Sharing our credit union stories with elected officials is a great honor. Being in D.C. allows you to feel like you are a part of something bigger than your credit union. You can feel the energy of all of us working together to make a difference. Twenty years ago, was my first GAC and I still have the same excitement and feeling of honor to be a part of the Credit Union Movement. We are doing great things to help improve our member’s financial lives and are staying true to the foundational credit union philosophy of ‘People Helping People’.”

Griese left feeling inspired, saying “My testimony of the credit union movement has grown tremendously and seeing so many hard-working folks gathered together in an effort to improve people’s lives was inspiring and something I will not soon forget!”

Scholes shared her thoughts, saying “Attending the 2017 CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference was an amazing experience! Being one of 5,000 credit union professionals converging on the Capital to meet with elected officials to tell our story and fight for credit union interests was moving. I returned to Portland with a renewed interest to advocate for the credit union movement. Credit unions are good for consumers, our member-owners. We need to work to protect our unique structure and improve awareness to our members and potential members of who and what we are that makes us different from other financial service providers. ‘People Helping People’ by looking out for the financial well-being of our members and communities – what’s not to love!”

Letter from the CEO: It’s Different Here

If you haven’t already noticed, things are a little bit different here at USAgencies Credit Union… in a good way.

What do I mean, exactly? Well, first-off, we’re a credit union, which means we are a financial cooperative, created by, and for, our members. At a credit union, you’re part owner… Can you say that about your bank?

Secondly, we have several things that we just flat-out won’t do because they’re not in our members’ best interests. We won’t offer products and services that don’t uphold our standards, just to make a buck or two. We won’t put you in a product or service that’s not good for you and your financial future. And we won’t charge excessive fees, just to help our bottom line. Our members are our bottom line.

There are so many other ways we’re different – these are just a few examples. We hope that you appreciate this difference. If you do, why not pay it forward and share us with friends and family by telling them about USAgencies Credit Union?

Jim Lumpkin, President/CEO, USACU
Jim Lumpkin
President/CEO
USAgencies Credit Union

FYI: Credit & Debit Card ‘Holds’

Imagine this: You’re on a long road trip, with a tight budget. You’ve carefully calculated out all of your expenses, accounting for gas, hotels, food, plus a few extras. On day two of your trip, after filling up at the pump multiple times throughout the day, you check in to your hotel… or at least, you attempt to. Your card is declined. You know you have enough money to cover everything… so what happened?

Swipe a card at the gas pump, or check into a hotel—or any place where your final total isn’t known—and a merchant might place a pre-authorization ‘hold’ on your account to make sure you have the funds to cover their transaction, or any other costs that might be added to your hotel charge.

Pre-authorization holds are put in place by merchants, and are most commonly seen at gas pumps, hotels, and restaurants. The hold amounts are usually a set standard; be aware that for gas stations this hold amount can vary anywhere between $1-$150. So even if you buy only $20 worth of gas, you could have a hold on your debit or credit card for $150 for up to five days.

When a hold happens, the money is removed from your available balance, but doesn’t actually go anywhere. Although the merchant determines the hold amount, the financial institution determines the length of the hold. Hold times range from 3-5 days (USACU holds for 3). Once the hold time has passed or the charge has cleared, the hold is removed and the remaining funds are made available again in your account.

Here are a couple ways you can typically avoid this type of authorization holds:

Pay inside. When you pay inside at a gas station you are paying for exactly what you got, so there is no need for the merchant to send a temporary authorization hold.

Fill your tank for a preset amount. Instead of filling the tank, just get $30 worth of gas. Since the merchant knows what the final debit will be, they are able to send through that authorization amount.

Ask. Inquire about hotel holds in advance. See if there’s any leeway in the hold amount.

Pay cash. Often gas stations reward you with a discount when you’re paying in cash. Hotels may be a bit more leery, and may require a larger cash deposit, but some are happy if you pre-pay.

 


 

If you find yourself in a sticky situation because of a card hold, contact USAgencies’ card services department (800.452.0915, opt. 4) to discuss your options. We’re here as your advocate, and will always do whatever we can to help. 

Protect Yourself: Tax Scams

It’s tax season. Unfortunately, that also means it’s tax scam season too.

It’s important that you’re aware of the various ways scammers may attempt to steal info and money, so that you can better avoid becoming a victim. The more informed you are about tax scams, the better you’ll be at spotting, and stopping, fraudsters.

What do tax scams look like?

  • The scammer usually presents themselves as an employee of the IRS or State in a call/email to the targeted individual, falsely stating they want to “help” with tax filing.
  • Typically, this type of tax scam involves an unsolicited, bogus email regarding a tax refund or bill, or threatening an audit if the bill is not paid right away.
  • Tax scam emails often look very official, and can link to a phony website – in order to appear to be more legit.

How can you protect yourself against tax scams?

If you get an email regarding federal or state taxes:

  • Don’t reply to the message.
  • Don’t give out personal or financial information.
  • Forward the email to phishing@irs.gov and then delete it.
  • Don’t open attachments or click on links, as they may contain malicious code or viruses.
  • For tax scams involving a state’s filing office, check the office’s website to see how they recommend reporting an attempted attack.

If you get a call regarding federal or state taxes:

  • Ask for a contact number and an employee badge number and then call back to verify its legitimacy.
  • Call the IRS or state tax authority to inquire further and verify the accuracy of the call.
  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Use TIGTA’s IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page to report the incident.
  • Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission through the FTC Complaint Assistant on their website (add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments section).

In general, it’s a best practice to be extremely critical of ANY emails or phone calls you get from someone claiming to be an employee of the IRS or state tax authority, especially those that demand immediate payment. These governing bodies will NEVER:

  • Initiate contact with you by phone, email, text, or through social media outlets to ask for your personal or financial information.
  • Require that you pay your taxes with a certain payment type, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Call you and demand immediate payment. The IRS or State will not call about taxes you owe without first mailing you a bill.


For more in depth information on how to detect or report tax scams, visit https://www.irs.gov/uac/tax-scams-consumer-alerts.

For more online security resources from USACU, check out the Security tab on our site.

7 Reasons to Consider Consolidation

A brand-new year often inspires positive life changes, such as breaking free of debt. One way to help eliminate debt is by consolidating it into a lower interest rate loan, like USACU’s Slim-Down loan, for example.

Here are 7 reasons you might want to consider a loan consolidation:

  1. Save $$. By consolidating higher interest debt (like credit cards) with a lower interest rate loan, you could potentially save hundreds of dollars over the life of your loan. Wait, hundreds? Yes, hundreds! That’s at least worth looking into right?
  2. Save even more $$! Shave 2% off USACU’s already-low consolidation loan rates when you apply for our Slim-Down loan before February 17th. With rates as low as 6.99% APR* and amounts up to $10,000, we make it easy to save even more $$. Plus, for a limited time, there’s no origination fee – even better!
  3. It’s Easy. It couldn’t be more convenient to consolidate debt with help from USACU. Call or click today and we’ll help you get started in just a few quick steps.
  4. One Payment. Instead of several credit card bills and loan statements, you’ll just have to make one loan payment. Easy, right? We like easy.
  5. Pay Debts Faster. A lower interest rate means you could potentially pay your debt down much faster, because you’ll have less debt to pay down overall. Also, with just one payment–instead of multiple minimum payments–you could chip away at that debt by easily making more than the minimum payment each month.
  6. Improve Cash Flow. If your goal is more cash in your wallet at the end of the month, a consolidation loan can help with that too. By making only one payment, instead of several, you could give yourself a bit more of a cash cushion each month.
  7. Prepay and Save. Get a large chunk of cash after you consolidated your debt? Great! You can prepay your loan at any time with us, with no prepayment penalty or fee. Some loans or credit cards charge when you pay off early- USACU won’t.

There are of course many more reasons a consolidation loan might be the right choice for you… these are just a few!

Whatever your aspirations are for the new year–be it debt consolidation, getting a better auto loan rate, or anything in between–know that your credit union is always here to help with education, resources and products to help you reach your financial goals.

*APR=Annual Percentage Rate. Terms and conditions apply. Connect with us for complete details.


Questions?
Contact our lending department:
Local: (503) 275-0300, ext. 2
Toll-free: (800) 452-0915, ext. 2
Email: loans@usacu.org

Ready to apply for a consolidation loan?
Click here (Hint: you want to select “Signature” under “Personal Loans” when applying)

Tips to Avoid Fraud This Holiday Season

From our friends at NCUA

While the holidays can be a time of celebration, they can also unfortunately be a time of higher rates of fraud. Here’s a list of tips to help you avoid becoming a victim this holiday season:

Stay Protected Online

  • Do not respond to unsolicited spam email.
  • Understand the risks of using unsecured or public wireless networks. If it’s open to the public, it’s possible that your personal information or your computer could be compromised.
  • Be cautious of email claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Scan the attachments for viruses if possible.
  • When shopping online look for the padlock. Secured websites will have an icon of a locked padlock that appears, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser, or right next to the URL in the address bar, depending on the internet browser you use. Don’t enter your personal or credit card information into a website if that icon isn’t present.
  • Never put your credit card information in an email.
  • Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited email.
  • Always compare the link in the e-mail to the web address link you are directed to and determine if they match.
  • Log directly onto the official website for the business identified in the e-mail, instead of linking to it from an unsolicited e-mail.
  • Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the email to verify if the email is genuine.
  • If your members are asked to act quickly, or there is an emergency, it may be a scam. Fraudsters create a sense of urgency to get their victims to act quickly.
  • Verify any requests for personal information from any business or financial institution by contacting them directly using their main contact information.
  • If you see something, say something. Report possible cybercrime to the FBI through the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Go to https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.

Package Delivery Scam

  • If you receive an email with the subject line reading “USPS Failed Delivery Notification,” or something similar, do not open it. The emails claim to be from the Postal Service and contain fraudulent information about an attempted or intercepted package delivery.
  • Clicking on the link activates a virus, which can steal personal information such as user names, passwords or financial account information. These emails look almost identical to official notifications from the real shippers by using legitimate-looking email addresses and even the official logos.
  • This scam is not limited to the USPS. Similar email and text scams are also circulating that appear to be from other shipping companies such as UPS and FedEx.

Using Public Wi-Fi

  • Using your laptop, tablet or smartphone at Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops, libraries, airports, hotels, universities and other public places is convenient, but often they’re not secure. If you connect to a Wi-Fi network, and send information through websites or mobile apps, it might be accessed by someone else. The bad guys are there too, shopping for your information.
  • One way scammers obtain your information is by putting out a Wi-Fi signal that looks just like a complimentary one. Choose the wrong Wi-Fi and the hacker now sits in the middle and steals your personal or financial information. When you use a Wi-Fi connection in a public place, it is better not to use your credit card.
  • To protect your information when using wireless hotspots, send information only to sites that are fully encrypted, and avoid using mobile apps that require personal or financial information.

Online Gift Card Scams

  • Gift cards purchased through online auction sites are often fraudulent or stolen. The safest way to purchase gift cards is directly from the merchant or retail store.

Stripped Gift Card Scams

  • You should also be careful when purchasing gift cards at retail stores, as well. Thieves can write down the code or use a device to scan the magnetic strip on the back of gift cards that are available on racks. Every few days, the thief will check the balance and redeem the card’s value online without the gift recipient’s knowledge.
  • When buying a pre-loaded card, always have the cashier scan the card to verify that the full amount is available.
  • Also, check to make sure that the packaging hasn’t been tampered with or damaged. This may be a sign that the gift card has been compromised, or replaced with a stripped gift card. If possible, register gift cards with the retailer for additional protection if it’s lost or stolen.

Charity Scams

  • The holidays are a time of giving. Before giving to a charity, take a look at two websites from the Federal Trade Commission on the warning signs of charity scams:
  • Also, the Internal Revenue Service has a search feature on its website that allows consumers to find legitimate, qualified charities to donate to. To learn more, visit http://go.usa.gov/cZrTF.

 


 

For additional info and resources on keeping your personal information safe, visit USACU.org/fraud