We are Relocating Our Decatur Office

front elevation

If you live in the city of Decatur or in DeKalb County, you may have heard the news that North DeKalb Mall will be redeveloped sometime in the near future. We are using this opportunity to relocate our main office to a larger, more convenient, free standing location with drive-thru access. Our new location is under construction and is expected to be complete in the Fall.

The new office will be located at 2476 Lawrenceville Highway, just under half of a mile away from our existing office on Lawrenceville Highway. You will immediately notice that we have added curbside convenience by providing a drive-thru window for teller transactions and a drive-up, deposit-taking ATM.

Most noticeable inside the building will be the significantly expanded lobby presence. The expansion will provide a dedicated member service area featuring private offices for loans and member service. We will have more people available to greet you at our concierge desk and guide you to the private areas where we can serve you. We have added a transaction center that is focused on privacy and security consistent with the service you receive at the drive-thru. For deposit and withdrawal transactions, you will still see the familiar faces of the tellers who will now serve you from a secure and private video connection.

We are excited about this move and the changes ahead. We are looking forward to the many ways we will deliver exceptional, secure, private and personal service to you. Please be on the lookout for more information about the construction and the move.

Equifax® Data Breach: How to Protect Your Financial Identity

equifax data

By now, it’s safe to assume most of us have heard about what Equifax is referring to as a ‘cybersecurity incident’. For those of us who haven’t, here’s a quick recap:

  1. Hackers took advantage of a weak area in an Equifax application between May and July 2017.
  2. Information that may have been stolen included names, addresses, Social Security numbers, birthdates and driver’s license numbers for close to 143 million U.S. customers.
  3. You will need to take action to protect your information and credit by first visiting equifaxsecurity2017.com to find out if you were included in this data breach.
  4. Equifax is offering one year of free credit monitoring to those effected.
  5. In addition to the breach of personal information, some 209,000 credit card numbers and 182,000 dispute documents containing personal information may also have been stolen. Equifax will alert those affected via U.S. mail.

Also, while it’s true we have the word ‘credit’ built into our name, it’s important to understand your credit union was not breached and your account information with the credit union remains safe.

What this breach could mean to you.

Thieves could use the stolen information to pretend to be you and open accounts like credit cards, auto and personal loans in your name. This could be harmful to your chances of being approved for loans and accounts you are actually applying for in the future. Landlords, utility companies, cellular service providers, employers and others also use your history when deciding to hire, grant you credit, lease a home to you, provide you with internet and other services necessary for daily life. If someone else has taken your good credit on a joy ride, it’s likely they won’t plan to also make the corresponding payments, thus, leaving you with raised debt ratios and poor pay history. All this adds up to lowered credit scores and one big mess to clean up once you’ve discovered they’ve taken advantage of your hard work.

So how, then, do you protect yourself?

The good thing to know is you do have options which could prevent the above scary situation. Some experts suggest a complete ‘freeze’ of your credit file while others suggest a ‘lock’. The two seem the same; however, there’s a difference in how to go about adding and removing the freeze or lock.

According to TransUnion, a major credit reporting agency, locking your credit file puts you in control of preventing lenders and others from accessing your credit. When you lock your credit yourself, there’s zero waiting period, need for a PIN number and no fee is charged. TransUnion suggests enrolling in their credit monitoring program, TrueIdentity, which gives you the ability to lock and unlock your credit anytime while providing free monitoring alerts for critical credit information changes.

Freezing your credit, however, means you’re turning over control to credit reporting agencies to remove and control access to your credit file. You initiate the request to freeze and unfreeze, reporting agencies do the rest. A few things to keep in mind with a credit freeze:

  • There are fees associated with freezing and unfreezing your credit and you must initiate the request with each of the major credit agencies separately. These fees can range from $3 – $10, depending on your state, per request.
  • You may not be able to immediately freeze and unfreeze your credit file. Keep this in mind if, for instance, you’re out and about car shopping and decide to have your credit pulled for loan approval. In some cases, it can take up to 48 hours and may require a fee to unfreeze. Patience is a virtue, but in a world where instant gratification often reigns, it can feel like an eternity.
  • A PIN is required and must be provided when applying for new credit. If you forget your PIN, you’ll have to take in-depth steps with one or more of the credit bureaus to verify your identity and reset your PIN. As this breach is related to personal identifying information, identification processes may be strenuous. If you choose this option, be sure to choose a PIN you will remember.

Clark Howard made it even easier for all by providing links to freeze or lock your credit with each of the 3 main credit bureaus (thanks, Clark!)  You can visit the page by clicking here.

As credit card info for 209,000 cardholders across the U.S. and possibly another 182,000, we encourage you to take advantage of Remote Control Card services by logging into mobile banking using our FlexTeller app and turning your debit cards ‘on’, or active, and off, or ‘disabled’ as you need to use them.  If you have questions about this service, let us know!

Is there such a thing as ‘too much’ protection?

In this case, it’s not possible to be overzealous in protecting your financial identity, especially since it’s important to remember you may not immediately see false accounts or trade lines on your credit report. Identity thieves are patient…this breach happened in May – July 2017 and it’s possible, if your information is misused at all, it may not be evident for a long time. If you do not choose (and even if you do) to block or freeze your credit, you should be diligent in monitoring your financial accounts and credit report for any suspicious activity. You can do this by requesting your credit report from each of the three major credit agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, at no charge, once per year. To request a copy from one or each of these agencies, visit annualcreditreport.com. Some may choose to enroll in other credit monitoring services like Credit Karma. If so, understand these services are not the ‘be all, end all’; combine the info you see with these services to what you see on the credit reports you request.

Still, despite all you can do to help yourself, we’re here for you as well…working to calm the concerns you’ve expressed to us when calling, emailing and stopping by one of our offices. You should know we take this breach very seriously and have taken steps to ensure your member advisors are working to protect you and your information. Just as we’ve always done, we’ll continue to ask you to verify your account and contact information by asking several questions when you call. This will continue to be consistent across the board and we ask that you be patient while we complete this process as it’s truly in your best interest. A few extra seconds spent verifying your identity could prove to save you hours of frustration in the long-run should identity thieves attack the security of your information.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 404-978-0080.

Clean Up Your Finances for the New Year

broom clean up

After a year of spending, saving, paying off bills and racking up rewards points, your financial life can get a little messy. And now that the holiday season is over, it is a great time to regain control of your finances. When you de-clutter your accounts, paperwork and budget, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to make the most of your money.

Resolve to roll up your sleeves, dust off your statements and follow these tips for finances that sparkle:

  • Streamline your banking. Close old accounts, switch to online bill pay and sign up for e-statements to reduce paper waste. Shred year-old bank statements, expired warranties, old Social Security statements and tax documents that are over seven years old.
  • Consolidate your debt. Consider rolling all of your high-interest payments into one low-rate personal loan like a Save As You Pay loan with MembersFirst. Close credit cards you don’t need and create a payment strategy to lower your debt. Plan to pay off credit cards with the highest interest rates first.
  • Organize your savings. Many households have multiple savings accounts, including IRAs, CDs and 401(k)s. Consider moving all of your savings plans to one financial institution and consolidating all IRAs to one account. Talk to your employer about moving old 401(k) accounts into the one at your current job, or rolling them to a self-directed IRA. Finally, increase your 401(k) savings so that at a minimum you are saving enough to earn a full match from your employer.
  • Plan your estate. Update or create your will. It’s a fairly easy and inexpensive process that people often put off for obvious reasons. If you have any property (car, house, land, flat-screen TV, etc.), a will prevents lengthy legal battles and guarantees the right people receive your belongings upon your passing.

 

Need help tidying up? Stop by your nearest MembersFirst branch or give us a call at 404-978-0080. We’d be more than happy to help you clean up your finances!

What’s your money persona?

what is your money persona

Personality.  It’s what makes us all a bit different.  Sometimes we relate to someone a little better than another based on how eccentric, laid back or direct they are.

Have you thought about how you’re treating your financial relationships?  Are you taking care of your nest egg, so to speak?  Believe it or not, the way you spend cash says a lot about your personality–well, your money persona, anyway.

So, in between all those really important quizzes we take online to determine who our BFF is or what song best represents our lives, why not take one to help determine whether your money-spending (or hoarding) choices are something to be worked on or shared with the world.

With the help of her friend, Lucy, Jen learned a little about her own money persona.  Watch the video, then take the quiz below.


(Pssst…you may want to grab a pen and scratch paper for this one.)

12_B_Infographic_MembersFirst

So, how did you do?  Were you surprised to learn what your money persona is?  Maybe you fell in multiple categories.  Whatever the case may be for you, you can rest easy knowing there are tons of solutions to help you save, invest, make smarter choices with and even spend your money smarter.  You might try checking out our affordable and convenient savings solutions.

We want to hear from you.  Drop us a comment below and let us know how you did.

 

Stretching Your $$$

money tug of war

Tip: Never go to the grocery store hungry.

It’s a simple rule to keep from over-buying and one sure to keep you from blowing the week’s budget on cravings at your local grocer.  But, aside from controlling your appetite as you peruse the baked goods aisle, there are a seemingly infinite number of ways to help control your spending and stretch your dollar a bit further.

Don’t be hasty in your online purchases.  There are a lot of online retailers that offer free shipping for purchases over a certain dollar amount.  This can be a great deal, but, before clicking to finalize your purchase, be sure to shop around.  Not all deals are created equally.  The cost of some items may be raised to accommodate for the ‘Free’ shipping.  Make it a habit of checking other sites to see if a similar item of same quality can be found at a lower price with free or lower shipping costs.

Take advantage of retail club memberships and actually use the discounts.  All households require paper towels, toilet paper and infinite bottles of ketchup and mustard—buy in bulk.  You’ll not only save over the long-run on items like these, you’ll also save yourself a few trips to the store for these staples.  Along with most retail club memberships come discounts with partner companies and local and national services.  Your $40 annual membership could land you even deeper discounts on entertainment like theme park passes and savings on cellular, television, optical, vacation package and much more.  And speaking of memberships, if you’re not using gym or other club memberships, cancel them.  You’re unnecessarily spending money each month on services you’re not using that could be used elsewhere.

Talk with your home insurance company about bundling services.  If you’re paying home owner’s, renter’s, auto and life insurance through multiple agencies, consider bundling these policies with one company.  Often times, because one company is gaining a large amount of your business, you’ll not only receive discounts on the rates you pay, but some companies will offer an additional discount when you choose to set up automatic payments or choose to receive an e-statement vs. paper statement.

High-rate loans, credit cards and fee-heavy checking accounts are like a black hole for extra cash.  Slim down your loan and credit card rates and be sure you’re not paying fees to participate in these services while you’re at it.  You should never pay for services like online banking and bill pay.  Make sure you and your family members are taking full advantage of our low interest loan solutions and our no-fee and direct deposit checking accounts.  Ask us today how you can transfer these services to MembersFirst.

Is it really necessary to have the highest or fastest level of internet, television and mobile service plans?  Think about the channels you really watch or need.  Consider downgrading your plan with the cable company and turn certain entertainment packages on and off when you need them.  If you’re a big football fan, turn on the sports package just during the season.  For mobile users, ask your provider what your average data use is and go with a plan that’s just above your average.  You may even want to talk with these providers or find a new one which offers money-saving bundling packages for these services.

What are some of the ways you and your family make your money go even further?  Let us know in the comments below.  While you’re here, read up on other money-savings ideas, budgeting tips and ways to protect your information and finances.

Don’t forget joining a Credit Union is a GREAT way to cut back on unnecessary expenses like monthly fees and high interest… we just so happen to know a great one.