Pelican State Credit Union Gives Away $4,000 In Free Groceries

nn093014_3Pelican State CU showed its support for both a local business and its community recently when it gave away $4,000 in free groceries to shoppers at a family-owned grocery store.

Starting at 9 a.m. September 19, the first 200 shoppers to visit Carter’s Supermarket in Denham Springs, LA received $20 in free groceries, courtesy of the Baton Rouge based credit union.

Pelican team members saw firsthand how far $20 goes in some households. Shoppers were overwhelmed with gratitude. Some even hugged team members as they left the supermarket.

Bx5ig-nCEAIPITD“This means a lot to me; we need the food,” said shopper Wanda Lee. Lee and many others who were in line before 9 a.m. said that waiting was worth it because $20 goes a long way if you’re a savvy shopper.

Pelican knows it’s important to support local businesses and wanted to partner with a family-owned grocery store for this event in order to give back to the community that has given so much to the credit union. Carter’s is locally owned and operated by the Cain family and is located just miles from Pelican’s Denham Springs branch.

The Grocery Store Giveaway is one of the many ways the credit union is giving back to its branch communities and encouraging consumers to bank and shop local. Across the state of Louisiana, the credit union has given away over $8,000 in money booths at festivals and Grand Openings, $4,000 in free gas and over 700 sno-cones.

Pelican has several other #PelicanPays promotions planned for 2014. Search for the hashtag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up with Pelican’s other events throughout the year.  Many credit unions support their communities with programs like these.  Consider joining a credit union for additional benefits like financial education and community contributions.  At a credit union you’re not just an account number, you’re a member-owner who can impact the lives of those around you!

Getting Fee’d Up With Your Bank’s ATM charges? Join a Credit Union

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While credit unions continue to charge small or no fees for ATM transactions, banks have pumped up their fees to record highs, according to a recent survey from Bankrate.com .

Among the big banks polled, the average surcharge for non-customers who use their ATMs jumped 6.5% this year up to a record of $2.77.

Banks also charge their customers who get cash from ATMs outside of their networks an average of $1.58 per transaction, also a new high. That means consumers could have to fork over an average of $4.35 per transaction every time they use a bank ATM outside of their bank’s system.

Meanwhile, of those credit unions who charge fees for using ATMs outside of the institution’s network, the median fee charged sits much lower at about $1, according to the Credit Union National Association’s 2013-14 fees report.

Further, only about 6.5% of all credit unions charge transaction fees on ATMs they own. Credit unions charge a median fee of $1 for non-owned ATMs as well.

“Data from every market research firm tracking financial institution pricing reflects the same fact: Credit unions generally charge their members lower fees, lower rates on loans, and higher yields on deposits than those available at banking institutions,” Mike Schenk, CUNA vice president of economics and statistics, told News Now .

“Any consumer shopping for financial products and services would do well to include credit unions in that process,” Schenk added. “That’s one of the many reasons an increasing number of consumers are recognizing credit unions as their best financial partner.”

Many credit unions allow free transactions before assessing a fee for using an owned or non-owned ATM. The majority provide about five or six free transactions before assessing a fee, according to CUNA numbers.

Your credit union financial professionals bring you this site to help you make a smarter choice with your money.  Find a credit union you are eligible to join, with access to a network of over 30,000 low or fee free ATMs, at a smarterchoice.org or by clicking here.

If You Know Nothing Else About Credit Unions: Five Fun Facts

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Fun fact Friday!  Play some credit union trivia with your friends and see how well you know the unique characteristics of credit unions. Think you did well? You might have noticed a trend here.  Let us know!

What makes a credit union a unique financial institution?

  1. A) They have member-owners not share holders
  2. B) Governance boards are elected by one member, one vote philosophy
  3. C) Not for profit
  4. D) Earnings are returned to members through better services, rates and lower fees.
  5. E) ALL OF THE ABOVE

Credit Unions benefit their members in what ways?

  1. A) Higher savings returns
  2. B) Lower loan rates
  3. C) Lower fees
  4. D) Fewer fees
  5. E) ALL OF THE ABOVE

As a Credit Union Member you have access to a national network of how many fee free ATMs?

  1. A) 1,000
  2. B) 5,000
  3. C) 10,000
  4. D) 20,000
  5. E) Over 30,000

Where can you find a credit union you are eligible to join?

  1. A) asmarterchoice.org
  2. B) asmarterchoice.org
  3. C) asmarterchoice.org
  4. D) asmarterchoice.org
  5. E) ALL OF THE ABOVE

Credit Unions have how many memberships?

  1. A) 100
  2. B) 100,000
  3. C) 1,000,000
  4. D) 10,000,000
  5. E) 100,000,000

Help Your Teen Get a Smart Start with Money Management Tools

Lewis Smith from BayPort Credit Union shares how to help your teenager get a smart start with money management, and shares some of his personal experiences.  Video from The Hampton Roads Show, Aubrey Aquino

Your local credit union personal finance professionals bring you this website and other tools to help you make the most of your money. To find a local credit union you are eligible to join click here or go to asmarterchoice.org

Credit Unions’ Prize Linked Savings Accounts Provide Motivation, Help Establish Saving Habits

Original  article via US News: Could Prize-Linked Savings Accounts Convince You to Save? by Susan Johnston

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In the current low-interest climate, a paltry fraction of a percent just isn’t enough incentive to convince some Americans to make regular deposits into a savings account, especially when they’re also struggling with underemployment and rising costs of living. In fact, a survey this year by consumer finance company Bankrate found that over a quarter of Americans have no emergency savings at all.

To provide a stronger incentive to save, some credit unions are now offering prize-linked savings certificate accounts that offer monthly drawings for cash prizes. Under the largest of these programs, Save to Win, each $25 deposit gives the depositor an entry into the prize-winning raffle (up to 10 entries per month). Playing the lottery may seem at odds with saving for the future, but unlike a traditional lottery, there’s no sunk cost associated with prize-linked savings accounts. Winners get their cash prize deposited into their savings accounts, and everyone gets to keep the money they’ve saved plus interest. SaveUp, a financial startup based in San Francisco, offers its own twist on prized-linked savings. The for-profit website awards its users credits for adding money to their linked savings or retirement accounts, and those credits enter users into sweepstakes for cars, vacations and other prizes.

Legally, banks cannot yet offer prize-linked accounts in every state, and Bill Hampel, chief economist of the Credit Union National Association, acknowledges that the combination of lottery-style prizes and savings accounts may raise some eyebrows. “Lower-income people lose money in lotteries with no redeeming values whatsoever, so there’s a stigma [around traditional lotteries],” he says. “It takes a little while for policymakers to get their arms around combining something that can be bad for consumers and turning it into something that can be good for consumers.”

The Save to Win pilot program began in 2009 in Michigan, where the concept was already legal, and it’s now also offered in Nebraska, North Carolina and Washington. Credit union members in those four states have created roughly 50,000 accounts and collectively saved $94 million, reports Save to Win. “Early research in Michigan shows a lot of folks who wouldn’t normally be saving opened savings accounts and kept those accounts open,” Hampel says. “It is really hard to get some people to build up savings balances, especially in the bottom half of the income distribution.” Based on the findings in Michigan, credit unions and consumer advocates throughout the country are urging legislators in other states to allow prize-linked savings accounts.

“If someone does this for a couple of years and they build up a few thousand dollars, at the end of the year, they could take some of that money out and put it into a regular rainy day savings account,” Hampel says. “… If people get into the habit of saving, it’s easier for them to save in the future.”

[Read: The Benefits of Joining a Credit Union.]

Case Credit Union in Michigan is one of more than 60 credit unions participating in the Save to Win program. As of this month, Jennifer Slaughter, CASE’s vice president of marketing, reported that the credit union had 205 prized-linked accounts. She says the program encourages members to save “without any downside of losing.”

Aside from the possibility of winning money, prize-linked savings accounts offer another benefit: They’re not as liquid as a traditional savings account, so you can’t access the money on a whim. Each month, the program awards several $50 prizes, and at the end of the year, it awards grand prizes of several thousand dollars. To be eligible for prizes (especially the grand prize of $10,000), account holders must keep their accounts active and leave their money in the account over the course of the calendar year.

“With every deposit, you have a chance to win something extra. It’s a nice opportunity to win a few extra dollars while you’re doing something good for yourself.

For Richard Ciolek, 62, a Case Credit Union member in Saginaw, Michigan, this feature was key. “I wanted to set up a savings account where I wouldn’t be able to easily access it,” he explains. “With every deposit, you have a chance to win something extra. It’s a nice opportunity to win a few extra dollars while you’re doing something good for yourself.” So far, Ciolek has won $50, and he’s hopeful that he might win more in the future.

For members who do need to access funds before the end of the year, they can do so for a fee, typically around $25. “The idea is to not make it impossible to withdraw the money,” explains Hampel, but to charge enough that people think twice before cashing out. (With a traditional certificate of deposit, you might forfeit up to 90 days’ worth of interest for early withdrawal, but you wouldn’t have the potential for cash prizes.)

More importantly, though, getting into the habit of saving money often begets more positive money behavior in the future. “If someone does this for a couple of years and they build up a few thousand dollars, at the end of the year, they could take some of that money out and put it into a regular rainy day savings account,” Hampel says. “… If people get into the habit of saving, it’s easier for them to save in the future.”

Use your gift cards, avoid wasted money

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When you give someone a gift card, there’s a good chance at least a portion of your gift will go unused.

Every year close to $1 billion worth of gift cards is lost, due either to the card being misplaced or to the balance going so low it’s merely forgotten ( CreditCards.comSept. 17). The Credit CARD Act of 2009 made it more difficult for retailers to run down the card value through inactivity fees or to cancel unused cards–but that doesn’t protect consumers from themselves.

So here are some tips from CreditCards.com to ensure you get the full value of your gift card.

  • Put all your gift cards in one place . You can organize them physically or scan them all into an app on your phone.
  • Know the penalties . A company can’t charge an inactivity fee for at least a year or deactivate a card sooner than five years. That’s a generous window–just don’t let it close.
  • Plan your shopping around gift cards . If you know how you’re going to spend the gift card before you go shopping, you’re more likely to use it.
  • Sell it or swap it . If you know you’ll never use the card, there are multiple sites, such as cardpool.com or swapagift.com , where you can exchange it for cash or another gift card, though you might not get full face value.
  • Consider giving low-end gift cards . Research shows cards to fast food and retailers like Target are used more quickly than cards for higher-end shops.
  • Beware general-purpose gift cards . Credit card companies offer gift cards you can use anywhere, but they often come with fees and use-by dates, after which you have to call customer service to request a new card if you want to use the remaining balance.
  • Donate your card . Websites like Charity Choice and Gift Card Give collect low-balance gift cards and combine them into higher-balance cards to give to the needy.
  • As a last resort, check unclaimed property . Many states require inactive gift cards with a remaining balance be turned over to the state’s lost property department after a certain amount of time has passed. If you can prove the card was yours, you may be able to retrieve it there.

Don’t let that unused gift go to waste!  What tips do you have to make sure you keep your gift cards safe?

ECCU Clarifies Credit Score Mystery

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You hear a lot of things about your credit score and how important it is, but how much do you really know about it? Educational Community Credit Union has a complimentary e-book: A Comprehensive Guide To Your Credit Score, where you’ll learn:

  • What your credit score is and why it’s important
  • The things that affect your score
  • How you should be using your credit cards
  • Your credit report and the importance of fixing mistakes
  • How to improve your score

The book illustrates how critical credit can be in everyday life, and teaches individuals what a credit score is, why it’s important and what factors cause it to rise and fall.

“The public is barraged daily with messages about credit, ranging from free credit to no money down, or easy preapprovals,” said Jeff DeShane, vice president of lending for the credit union. Readers also are taught why it’s important to check their credit reports on a regular basis, how to correct errors, and what steps to take to ramp up poor scores.ebook-cover-FINAL

The e-book is part of a broader array of financial literacy initiatives undertaken by Educational Community, as the credit union also has launched credit seminars in area high schools for upperclassmen to prepare them for their financial futures.

“With our educational roots, it only makes sense to take this approach to serving our members,” DeShane said. “While we can’t always approve every member for a loan, we can offer a plan to help improve their credit score so they can hopefully secure a loan in the future.”

Your credit union personal finance professionals bring you this website and other tools to help you make the most of your money. To find a local credit union you are eligible to join click here or go to asmarterchoice.org

Protect Your Identity: Online Banking Best Practices

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Articles originally from Lancaster Rose Credit Union‘s Matt Steffy

When it comes to online banking best practices, there are plenty of ways to protect yourself, and your money, from possible fraud or compromise. Here at Lancaster Red Rose Credit Union, we want all our members to understand the threats out there and how they can protect themselves.

Here I’ll share the first 5 tips in my overall list of Top 10 Online Banking Best Practices that will help you perform online banking in a safer and more trusted environment.

1. Install Anti-Virus And Anti-Malware Software

This is the one strategy that I cannot stress enough. If you don’t have anti-virus and anti-malware software installed on your computer, I ask that you please not do any online banking on that system.

A computer without protective software cannot be trusted, as you have no way of knowing for sure if it’s been compromised or not. By installing anti-virus and anti-malware software and keeping them up-to-date, you’re keeping yourself protected while conducting online banking, as well as any other online activities you may do on that computer.

2. Go One Step Further: Install Anti-Exploit And Browser Integrity Software

On top of having anti-virus/malware software, you can protect your computer and online activities even further by installing anti-exploit and browser integrity software. This type of software actually protects your browser (and, optionally, programs such as Java, Adobe, etc.) from exploits that are used to infect computers with Banking Trojans and other malware.

Cyber-criminals use what’s called an ‘Exploit Kit,’ which attempts to serve malicious software to unsuspecting victims. If you should accidentally click on a malicious email link you could be taken to one of these exploit kits. Once there, the website will attempt to use multiple exploits on your computer, trying to find one that the computer is vulnerable to. These tactics can often bypass detection by traditional anti-virus/malware software.

3. Don’t Save Your Login Info

Whether you’re doing online banking from your home or work computer, get in the habit of not saving your login information, even if prompted by your internet browser. This is my suggestion for any website used for making purchases or accessing personal information.

While saving your login information may be more convenient, in reality you’re making yourself more vulnerable should your computer ever be compromised.

LRRCU’s online banking system (as well as many other online services that require a log-in) includes a feature that allows you to tell the site that you’re logging in from a trusted and personal computer. Make sure to only select that option if it truly is a personal computer that you trust.

4. Avoid Public Computers/WiFi

Avoid using public computers for doing any kind of internet activity that involves personal accounts, such as online banking, online shopping, or even Facebook and Twitter. For example, avoid computers at libraries, hotels, or schools for these kinds of online activity. You have no control over that computer and have no clue who has done what with it.

Also, when using your own laptop, tablet, or smartphone, make sure that when you conduct online banking that you’re doing so from a trusted internet connection. Using public WiFi connections should be treated the same as using the internet on public computers. You don’t know who else is connected to that WiFi and what they may be doing.

If you need to access your online banking while connected to a public WiFi, look into using a free VPN (Virtual Private Network) service like HotSpot Shield which allows you to have a secured and encrypted internet connection even while connected to an unsecured public WiFi.

5. Keep Software Updated

Keeping your computer software updated is critical to keeping your system protected. Cyber-criminals continue to look for vulnerabilities in commonly used software such as Java, Adobe Reader, etc. By not updating your computer software, you are opening yourself up to new vulnerabilities.

6. Be Careful With Your Personal Email

The most common way that people accidentally compromise their computer is by clicking on malicious links in emails and opening malicious email attachments. Again, cyber-criminals compromise computers so that they can steal sensitive information, such as online banking and other website credentials saved on your computer. The most common means of compromising computers is via malicious emails.

You always want to be careful when checking your personal email on a device you also use for online banking. Be cautious of vague emails from sources you are unfamiliar with. Don’t blindly click on links or open attachments from an email address of someone you’ve never been in contact with before.

Even if the email is from someone you know, if they send you a link or attachment and you were not expecting it, verify with them first that it’s legitimate. If an acquaintances’ computer or email account has been compromised, the exploit can push out malicious emails to everyone on their contact list in an attempt to lure more unsuspecting victims.

7. Create Unique Passwords

Make sure your online banking account is protected with a very secure and unique password. Do not use the same password for online banking as you do for other websites. What’s important to keep in mind is that if you’re re-using passwords, all it takes is one website to be compromised and the cyber-criminals now may have the credentials you used for online banking and elsewhere.

8. Verify HTTPS Connections

This is a simple, yet effective way to make sure you’re conducting your online banking through a secure connection. The difference between HTTP and HTTPS is that the ‘S’ indicates your session is secured via encryption.

A tactic used by some cyber-criminals is to use SSL Stripping tools that will attempt to force your internet browser to connect to a website using just HTTP instead of HTTPS. If they are able to do so, all the information you send through that HTTP session will be sent in ‘plain text,’ which means it’s easy to grab and intercept. So, when you’re logging into any website or service like online banking, check that the website address is showing that you’re connected through a secure HTTPS session.

9. Use a Live CD/USB

A Live CD/USB is either a CD or USB drive configured to boot up any computer into a secured and isolated environment. In situations where you need to use a public computer, this option allows you the reassurance that you’re using a safe and secure computer.

They work like this: you insert a CD/USB and upon rebooting the computer, you’re able to load a safe operating system that’s completely separated from the operating system installed on the computer you’re using.

While this subject is a lot more technical than can be explained in this blog, have a look at a Live USB device called ZeusGard that was specifically made for the purpose of conducting safe online banking no matter what computer you may be using.

10. Protect Your Phone

When it comes to doing online banking, many people are now starting to do more with their smartphones. Whether using your phone’s browser to access online banking or using a mobile app, you want to make sure your phone is safe.

As previously mentioned, do not save your login information on your phone. Protect your phone with an anti-virus software, if available, and make sure you keep the phone’s applications up to date. To better protect your personal information, configure your phone to be encrypted or at the very least put a passcode on the phone in case it’s ever be lost or stolen.

As you can see, there are a lot of ways you can be better protected when conducting online banking. While not all these online best practices may seem convenient, remember that these extra steps, and the time you take to better secure your online banking experience, are much easier than dealing with the headache of fraud. Your local credit union wants to help you keep your data secure.  Find a credit union to join that will keep your money safe at asmarterchoice.org 

See why Minnesotans Love Their Credit Unions

In Minnesota, its easy to see why being a member is so great!  This video captures the words of actual members and why they choose to have a credit union as their preferred financial institution.  In Minnesota, the first credit union started with 15 workers  in 1925 with $146.25.  Today 400 credit union locations in Minnesota serve 1.6 million members. Nationally, credit unions hit more than 100.1 million memberships, a number equating to one-third of the U.S. population, according to the Credit Union National Association’s June survey of monthly credit union estimates.

Among the reasons members give as to why they love their credit union:

  • Family-friendly environment;
  • Great rates;
  • Excellent service;
  • “I can do online banking any time I want;”
  • “I can get all my financial services done in one place;”
  • “Credit unions are the only place that someone on a fixed income can get a $380 loan to fix a broken hot water heater;”
  • “Credit unions are owned by their members, so they take good care of you;”
  • “I got a car loan in 10 minutes;”
  • “I love my credit union because for over 30 years they’ve given me better deals than banks on loans, accounts, interest rates, everything you can imagine.”

Keeping your Credit Score Safe after a Data Breach

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Worried about how the recent data breaches will affect your finances?  Follow these tips from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s  blog to keep your credit secure!

  1. Check your accounts for unauthorized charges or debits and continue monitoring your accounts. If you have online or mobile access to your accounts, check your transactions as frequently as possible. Report even small problems right away. Sometimes thieves will process a small debit against your account and return to take more if the first smaller debit goes through. Fraudulent account activity might occur many months after the breach;
  2. Contact your financial institution or card provider immediately if you suspect an unauthorized debit or charge. If a thief charges items to your account, you should cancel the card and have it replaced before more transactions come through. Consider changing the PIN to be safe; and
  3. Know when to ignore anyone attempting to “verify” account information by phone or email. This could be a common scam, often referred to as “phishing,” to steal account information. Credit unions and other financial institutions never ask for account information through phone calls or emails they initiate. Reliable sources of contact information for your card provider include the customer service number or web address listed on your bank or credit card statement or the back of your card.

Other points to remember:

  • Under federal law, credit card holders who had their account information stolen, but not the physical card, are not responsible for unauthorized charges.
  • For debit cards, if an unauthorized transaction appears on a statement, but the card or PIN has not been lost or stolen, under federal law consumers will not be liable for the debit if it is reported it within 60 days after the account statement is sent.
  • If a PIN or physical card has been lost or stolen, the time to report is two business days, in order to limit liability to no more than $50 of unauthorized charges, which is why reports need to be submitted as soon as the discovery is made.
  • Unauthorized charges that go unreported for more than 60 days could result in money and future charges made by the same person being lost.

Your credit union personal finance professionals bring you this website and other tools to help you make the most of your money. To find a local credit union you are eligible to join click here or go to asmarterchoice.org

Credit Unions are a Smarter Choice!