Tag Archives: finances

Freshen Up Those Finances for Spring

Give Your Finances a Checkup This Spring
Spring brings showers, flowers and an urge to tidy up. When you dive into spring cleaning this year, don’t forget your finances. Here’s how to give your money a thorough checkup to prepare for a great summer and beyond.

Check the health of your credit report
By monitoring your credit regularly, you can identify problems early. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get your free annual report from each of the three national credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Your credit score is not on your credit report, but what’s on your report influences what your score is. You can pay to see your score for a small fee.

Some financial institutions, like USAgencies Credit Union, will connect members with free financial counseling. They can discuss things that may be affecting your credit standing, as well as look at whether options such as consolidating debt or refinancing your home might be worthwhile.

Bolstering an anemic credit score
To bolster credit, take steps to clear demerits on your reports. Dispute errors and contact creditors to see whether they’d be willing to make “goodwill adjustments” to remove legitimate blemishes in return for paying a balance in full.

Another strategy for rebuilding credit is taking out a secured credit card. With a secured card, you deposit enough money to cover the limit you’re applying for, and your financial institution keeps that amount on hold for as long as you have the card. A secured card lets you establish a record of responsible credit use — boosting your credit standing in the process.

Tackling costly debt
High-interest debt from credit cards and loans can spiral out of control. To lower interest rates and reduce monthly payments, look into debt consolidation, which combines debt from multiple sources into a single loan. Choose from several solutions including home equity loans and lines of credit as well as personal loans.

With mortgage rates still near historic lows, those holding older mortgages might also benefit from refinancing to get a lower-interest loan.

Tuning up your credit score and tidying up your debts can refresh your finances. Before you know it, your budget will be in healthier shape, and you’ll be able to afford more summer fun.

Roberta Pescow, NerdWallet
© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Questions about how USACU can help you freshen up your finances for spring? Contact us.


Holiday Shopping Safety Tips

Whether in-store or online, it’s the time of year where we all need to be diligent about protecting our finances.

Here are some safety tips from the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA):

In-Store Purchases:

  • EMV chip cards provide an extra layer of security when you buy on site (not online). Not all merchants have caught up with this technology trend. Ask the merchant if they have the chip system in place. If they don’t yet support it, use your card but continue to monitor your transactions daily. Take advantage of your credit union’s online account monitoring services. Report any suspicious activity to your credit union immediately.
  • Be sure your card is returned following each purchase and that it is indeed your card.
  • Wait for the card receipt. Never leave it at the checkout counter, and keep receipts with you; not in your shopping bags.
  • Check your statements and watch for multiple or incorrect charges. Compare receipts to your account statements, and then destroy your receipts.
  • Report unauthorized transactions to your credit union immediately.
  • Keep a list of your card account numbers and telephone numbers to call if your cards are lost or stolen. Keep that list in a secure place.
  • Make sure you have signed your credit and debit cards. Do not write your PIN on the card!
  • When entering your PIN, block the keypad from the view of the cashier or other customers.
  • Know that your PIN can be stolen in other ways. There is a heat signature left on non-metal keypads for several minutes after you use it. Infrared cameras installed on Smartphones can be used to measure this heat signature and obtain your PIN. Stop this fraud by resting your fingers on other keys while typing in your PIN.
  • Running your card as credit rather than debit is another way of protecting your PIN.

Online Shopping:

  • Use a secure Internet connection.
  • Do not use public wireless networks for online purchases.
  • Shop on sites with https:// in the URL, and be sure that an icon with a lock appears to the left. The “s” stands for “secure” and indicates communication with that site is encrypted.
  • Type the merchant’s address directly into your browser; avoid links.
  • Use complicated passwords with at least eight characters. Include numbers, special characters and upper and lower case numbers.
  • Keep the antivirus and security software updated on your computers and mobile devices.
  • We recommend that you don’t store your payment information. Many websites or apps let you store your credit and debit card information for convenience, but this might also be too convenient for thieves.
  • Do not respond to pop ups, and do not share card information via email or texts.
  • Set up payment and purchase alerts via text and email. If you notice suspicious activity, notify your credit union immediately. 

The Northwest Credit Union Association is the not-for-profit trade association representing over 160 of Oregon and Washington’s credit unions and their 5.2 million members. The NWCUA is the voice of the Northwest credit union movement, providing legislative, regulatory and public advocacy in addition to education, compliance, networking support and business solutions to credit unions. For information on how to join a credit union, please visit http://www.asmarterchoice.org.