Choosing the Right Credit Card in 3 Easy Steps

When it comes to choosing a credit card, it’s important to pick the right one for your needs and uses. Credit union credit cards can offer users many benefits, but it’s also a major financial responsibility. Because of this, it’s important to choose wisely. This article is going to provide a step-by-step guide to choosing the right credit card.


  1. Check your credit score. In order to know which credit cards you will be eligible for, you need to start by checking your current credit score. Generally, the better your score is, the better chance you have of being approved for a credit card. It’s important to remember that applying for credit cards can have a negative impact on your score, so don’t apply hastily. Fortunately, there are free ways to check your score and make sure it’s where it should be.
  2. Pick a credit card type. Depending on what you’re going to use the credit card for, this may influence which credit union credit cards you apply for. There are numerous types of cards, including those that help you improve your credit, cards with low interest rates, and cards that allow users to earn rewards when they put money on them. You should determine what you plan on using the card for before deciding which type of card to choose.
  3. Narrow down your choices. Once you’ve determined which card is right for you, it’s time to narrow down the choices. To do this, you should do some research and ask any questions you may have. One of the great things about a credit union is that they offer unbeatable customer service. This means the establishment is truly invested in your financial wellbeing and will be willing to answer any questions you have regarding credit card options. Additionally, checking credit card reviews can help you compare a few credit cards you’re looking into.

After all of this is done, it’s time to apply for a credit card. When applying for a credit card, it’s important to read all of the fine print and make sure you fully understand the responsibilities attached to the card. While approximately seven out of 10 Americans are owners of at least one credit card, they should be used responsibly. Credit union credit cards are a great option and can offer users exceptional benefits and rewards.

4 Factors to Consider Before Applying for an Auto Loan

credit union auto loanIf you’re not already one of the 43% of people who are choosing to finance their vehicle, you may be looking for a credit union auto loan in the future. But before you jump right in, there are a lot of factors to consider, and if you overlook something important, you may find yourself stuck with a lot of debt you can’t afford to pay off.

As your trusted financial support system, we’re here to help. Below is a list of a few important factors to consider before taking out an auto loan.

Length of the loan: The length of the loan is one of the most important conditions you’ll want to consider. While it is possible to have a fairly long loan term, this typically means an increase in interest rates. So while your monthly payments may be lower, it’s essential to remember this may hurt your financial situation in the long run. Additionally, you’ll be wise to consider the condition of the vehicle when thinking about how long to have the loan for.

Your budget: Before even looking at cars, you should decide how much you can afford to spend and create a budget. You will have to put down a downpayment, but it’s also important to consider monthly payments. Remember, putting down a large sum up front will allow you more flexibility later on. And monthly payments should be an amount you will be able to afford even if your income unexpectedly drops.

Your credit score: Your credit score is a major contributing factor when it comes to getting approved for a credit union auto loan. It’s important to consider any credit cards you haven’t paid off or any previous loans that could hurt your chances of getting approved for a credit union auto loan. Additionally, lenders consider your credit score when determining what kind of interest rates you’ll get. So before you apply for a loan, make sure you check your credit score.

Interest rates: After learning your credit score, it’s vital to determine how much you will be paying in interest. Car loan interest rates can vary depending on the lender, and you’ll want to factor in interest rates when determining how big of a loan you can afford to take out.

Taking out an auto loan is not a decision you should rush into. It’s important to find a lender who will take the time to go over all of these details and important factors to ensure you understand the terms of the loan. In doing this, you’ll be sure to get the best loan possible.

Fortunately, Members Choice Credit Union is a member-friendly institution that always puts people first. We will walk you through the entire process to ensure that you get the best loan terms for your situation.

3 Tips to Help You Secure a Good Auto Loan

credit union auto financingIf you’re looking for a new car, you’re probably wondering how to secure a good auto loan. Finding the right auto loan can be tricky and frustrating. Luckily, we’ve compiled a few tips to help make the process easier.

Understand your credit history. With home loans, lenders tend to be more strict about offers regarding your credit score. But when you apply for an auto loan, you may have more flexibility with what you can get approved for with your credit score. You can get free copies of your credit score reports through various platforms. This is important to do because you need to know what kind of loans you should consider looking into. Also, you should understand your credit score in general because it can impact other financial situations in your life. In fact, According to a Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 88% of borrowers with credit scores of 780 or higher had credit cards in 2016. Credit card and loan approval can be significantly influenced by your credit score.

Choose a lender separately from the car dealer. While many people choose to get their auto loan through the car dealership, it can actually be more beneficial to look into credit union auto financing. Credit union rates tend to be much lower and they can offer better loan terms. It’s important to get prequalified for a loan before talking to the dealership about their financing offers. This way, you can look at the contract with the dealer and see if they are able to beat the credit union auto financing deal you already got approved for.

Keep in mind the loan’s total cost. Auto loan rates can change every day, depending on where you’re looking. Of course, it’s important to look for the lowest interest rates possible. Additionally, you need to consider the length of the loan term. While a longer term means smaller monthly payments, you also don’t want to be stuck paying off a loan for too long. And lastly, consider how much you can afford to put down on the loan. While it may seem scary to put a large sum down, this can help you in the long run. All of these individual factors add up to contribute to the overall cost of the loan. Because of this, it’s important to think about what everything is going to add up to be in the end.

Hopefully, you feel better about applying for auto loans now. Just remember, credit union auto financing can offer you lower rates and work with you to make sure you get the right loan for your financial situation.

How Can You Benefit From Choosing a Credit Union?

credit union ratesYou’ve heard the term “credit union,” but do you really know what sets these financial institutions apart from your traditional bank? Sure, credit unions follow a different business model, but that’s not really why people choose them. Customers often join a credit union for its “members first” mentality. After all, when you become a member of a credit union, you ultimately own a piece of the organization. And in doing so, you take ownership of your finances, and more importantly, your future. Let’s take a closer look at some of the specific advantages customers can expect when they choose a credit union.

Exceptional Customer Service: When you open an account, you become a valued member of the credit union. As such, you are sure to enjoy a more personalized experience, one in which your financial needs come first and support is always available. This means if you have difficulty getting approved for a home loan, a credit union may be able to work with you to figure out a solution that works for everyone involved.

Higher Interest Rates on Your Savings: Savings accounts allow you to earn interest on the funds you’ve got stored away for a rainy day. Here at Members Choice Credit Union, we understand that you want your money to grow for the sake of your family and your future. Fortunately, our credit union rates on savings are higher than those you might get at a standard bank. Credit unions are not focused on turning a profit; the happiness and success of the member is always the main concern.

Lower Fees: You may have learned the hard way that fees are often the greatest source of income for banks. But rest assured, while credit unions do have fees for certain services and products, they are typically much lower. Whether it’s transfer fees, ATM fees, or overdraft fees, credit union members can save a lot of money by facing fewer of these expenses.

Sadly, the average person in the U.S. has $17,966 in auto debt and thousands more in debt like student loans or mortgages. That’s why it’s important to join a financial institution that truly cares about its members. With lower fees and a heavy focus on member satisfaction, credit unions make an excellent option for all of your financial needs.

To learn more about credit union rates, loans, and what Members Choice Credit Union can do for you, contact us today!

What Were The Actual 2018 Tax Changes?

Member Q&A

Q: There was so much talk about the proposed changes to the tax code. Now that the changes have finally been signed into law, I’m wondering which planned modifications actually became a reality. What were the exact changes made to the U.S. tax code this year?

A: Many of the changes signed into law with the official Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts were quite different from those planned. Remember, though, that none of these changes will take effect until April 2018 at the earliest.

Let’s take a look at exactly how the tax code will be different for 2018.

1.) Changes for the seven income brackets

The current administration initially planned on condensing the income bracket system into just three brackets. However, when the law was finally passed, the seven-bracket system remained in place, though income levels for each bracket were tweaked.
The old income levels for the seven brackets were as follows: 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35% and 39.6%. The new rates are now 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%.

2.) Removal of Obamacare penalties

While the administration was not successful in repealing the Affordable Healthcare Act, there will be no penalties for those who choose not to have adequate health coverage starting in the year 2019. For your 2017 and 2018 taxes, though, you will still need to provide proof of health coverage or be held liable for the penalty.

3.) Changes in standard deductions and personal exemptions

The personal exemption has been eliminated, while standard deductions have increased.
In 2017, the standard deduction for the single taxpayer was $6,350, in addition to one personal exemption of $4,050. For 2018, those deductions will be combined into one larger standard deduction of $12,000 for those filing separately, and $24,000 for joint filers.

4.) Child tax credit

Deductions and credits for children under age 16 have doubled from $1,000 to $2,000. There is also a new tax credit for non-child dependents.

The Child and Dependent Care Credit, offering parents deductions for specific child care expenses, remains as-is.

5.) Estate tax exemption

Before the current changes, the 40% estate tax applied to the portion of an estate was valued at $5.6 million for the individual, and $11.2 million for a married couple. The new law will double these exemptions. Taxpayers filing as individuals will be granted an exemption of $11.2 million, while married couples will have a $22.4 million exemption.

6.) Education tax breaks
Original versions of the tax bill included plans for reducing or eliminating several education tax breaks, but none of these changes actually made it into the Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts.

The Lifetime Learning Credit and Student Loan Interest Deduction remain unchanged, and the exclusion for graduate school tuition waivers is also still in place.

However, the new tax bill has expanded the available use of funds in a 529 college savings plan to include other levels of education. You can now use money in those funds to pay for private school tuition or tutoring services for children in grades K-12.

7.) Deduction changes

There have been slight changes in the mortgage interest, charitable contributions, medical expense and State and Local Taxes (SALT) deductions.

The mortgage interest deduction was previously in place for any mortgage debt totaling up to $1 million. Under the new tax code, all mortgages taken after Dec. 15, 2017 and totaling up to $750,000, are qualified for this deduction. Also, the interest on a home equity loan can no longer be deducted.

The charitable contribution deduction has seen two minor changes. Taxpayers can now deduct as much as 60% of their income for charitable donations, up from the previous 50% limit. Also, donations made to universities in exchange for the privilege of purchasing tickets to athletic events can no longer be deducted as charitable expenses.

The cap for the medical expenses deduction has been cut from 10% of adjusted gross income (AGI) to 7.5% of AGI. Unlike nearly all other provisions in the bill, this change is retroactive to the 2017 tax year. Also, it will only apply through 2018.

The SALT deduction, which includes property and income tax, was originally slated for elimination, but was preserved with some changes. The total SALT deduction now cannot exceed $10,000.

8.) Corporate tax rate changes

The modified tax code lowers the corporate tax rate to a flat 21% on all profits. This simplifies taxes for most businesses while providing them with a significant cut as well.

9.) Disappearing deductions

Not every deduction survived the new tax law. Here are some that won’t be in effect for 2018 taxes:
Casualty and theft losses that were not caused by a federally declared disaster
Unreimbursed employee expenses
Tax preparation expenses
Miscellaneous deductions previously subject to the 2% AGI cap
Moving expenses
Reimbursement for employer-subsidized parking and transportation
10.) Repatriation of foreign assets

In an effort to bring some of the country’s largest companies’ profits back to American shores, the new tax law features a one-time repatriation rate of 15.5% on all cash and similar foreign-held assets, and 8% on non-liquid assets held overseas.

11.) Changes to the AMT exemption amount

The alternative minimum tax (AMT) exemption was permanently adjusted to account for inflation. These changes will be most dramatic in 2018 and are as follows:
For a single taxpayer or one filing as head of household, the AMT rate will increase from $54,300 to $70,300.
For a married couple filing jointly, the AMT rate will increase from $84,500 to $109,400.
For married couples filing separately, the AMT rate will increase from $42,250 to $54,700.


Hitting the jackpot in an arcade game is enormous fun. You stand there grinning as the tickets keep pouring out. And then you get to choose a cool prize to take home.

Recently, though, scammers have given this awesome kind of win a sinister twist by bringing the jackpotting mechanism to Automatic Teller Machines (ATM). This doesn’t mean you can ask for a $20 and the machine will start spitting out hundreds instead. But it does spell trouble for ATMs and their owners throughout the country.

Jackpotting attacks on ATMs have been spreading through Europe and Asia for quite some time.
Recently, though, the Secret Service sent out an alert warning that jackpotting has reached the United States.

The alert was reported by Brian Krebs, who quotes several sources for this warning and cautions the public to be aware and careful of these attacks.

Here’s what to know about the ATM jackpotting attacks.


How does it work?

First, an attacker performs some basic scouting to figure out a way into the ATM. They usually target models with front-facing panels because they’re easier to access. To avoid detection and gain easy access to the machines, thieves have been posing as ATM technicians. They’ve also been using medical endoscopes to reach the insides of the ATMs.
Once the vulnerable area within the ATM is determined, the scammers attach their own computers to mirror the ATM’s software. The thieves will now install malware, which conveniently places the ATM under their control. At this point, the ATM will appear to be out of service for users and so scammers can force the machine to do their bidding from a remote location.
The criminals’ final step in this hack is to program the ATMs to spit out piles of cash and to send “money mules” to go and collect the cash for them.
Alternately, scammers may quietly bide their time and only take action a few days, or even a week, later. They will then return to the compromised ATM and program it to dispense all of its cash at once – which they will promptly pocket, of course.

What malware is at play?

Krebs’ report suggests that the malware being used in these attacks is Ploutus D, a malware that has been widely used in ATM hacks since 2013. However, this claim has not been verified.

Just this past spring, researchers working in Kaspersky Lab wrote about three relatively simple ways fraudsters can hack and remotely control ATMs. The scammers can use any of these methods, or they may be using Ploutus D, as Krebs believes.

Which ATMs are Vulnerable?

While every ATM in the country is at risk of being attacked, the fraudsters appear to be particularly targeting Diebold Nixdorf-made ATMs.
The Secret Service alert also warns that ATMs running Windows XP are “particularly vulnerable” and should be updated as soon as possible. Unfortunately, though the Windows XP Embedded support ended more than two years ago, many ATM owners neglect to install updates as advised, therefore placing their machines at greater risk for hacks.

What you can do?

ATM jackpotting targets the machine’s owners and generally does not affect the common citizen. However, you can do your part to stop these crooks by reporting any suspicious activity you see near an ATM.
Did you spot a technician who looks out of place? Is an ATM that worked just fine yesterday suddenly out of service? If so, alert the local authorities so they can take appropriate action.

ATM Safety

While jackpotting might be relatively new to the U.S. and it’s not yet clear how widespread these attacks are, it’s always a good idea to exercise caution when using an ATM in a public setting. Here are some tips to remember the next time you use an ATM:
  1. Always cover the keypad with your free hand when inputting your PIN.
  2. If someone is lurking near the ATM for no apparent reason, do not use it.
  3. Be wary of signs that the ATM may have been tampered with, such as a new-looking keypad, a card reader that looks different than the rest of the machine, or an out-of-place security camera.
  4. Don’t use ATMs that are in unfamiliar neighborhoods or in stores you never frequent.
  5. If you’re withdrawing cash, be sure to secure your money in a wallet immediately after it’s dispensed. Don’t dawdle near the machine.
While the full impact of these jackpotting attacks is not yet evident, they are definitely not something the Secret Service is taking lightly. Do your due diligence to help stop the attacks, and always use caution when using an ATM in a public area.

Reaching Your Goals In 2018

The New Year is a great time of renewal. That makes it a good time to make bold, decisive changes in your life. Leave behind the baggage that was 2017 and start fresh with a blank slate in 2018. If you’re looking for some resolutions to improve your personal finances, we’re pleased to offer seven ways to make 2018 the year of the dollar!

Track your spending
If you’re looking to take your first steps toward financial literacy, figuring out where your money goes should be at the top of your list. If you don’t know where your money goes, it’s going to be tough to follow through with any other money plans. You may have a general sense of how much you spend, but after a month where you’ve recorded every dollar, you’ll have a much better picture. Using apps like Mint or Personal Capital can automate the process. You might even find that keeping track of what you do with your money encourages you to spend a little more judiciously.

Make a budget
About 70% of Americans live financially spontaneous lives. They don’t make a plan for spending or saving. When asked why they chose not to do so, the most common response was that the family spent all the money anyway. This is a circular problem. If you don’t have a budget that includes setting aside money for long-term expenses and savings, you’ll end up spending all your money on unplanned things and events. The best way to stop the cycle is to sit down and make a budget that modifies your spending to be more in line with your priorities.

Get out of debt
Easier said than done, right? However, there’s no bigger stumbling block to financial security and wealth building than debt. It’s hard to save for long-term goals when so much of your monthly income gets eaten up by interest and fees. There are a variety of methods you can use to help accelerate your payoffs. For instance, you can add an extra $50 or $100 to your credit card payments. Or, you can focus all your payment resources on the highest interest debt until it’s paid off and then move it all to the next highest for snowballing your way to freedom from debt.

Start an emergency fund
The best way to avoid going into debt is to have some money on hand to handle the occasional, yet inevitable, emergency. Most Americans, though, can’t come up with $500 in such instances. Set a specific goal, like adding $10 per month to a savings account. At the end of the year, you’ll have more than $100 available in case something goes wrong.

Start a retirement account
You can’t save for what you don’t think about. When retirement is years or decades away, it’s difficult to incorporate thinking about it into your daily routine. If you have a retirement account open, you’ll get monthly statements, which serve as reminders. The challenge, though, is taking that first step. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. While there are important differences between Roth and Traditional accounts, either one is better than no retirement savings at all. If your job offers a 401(k) matching program, sign up to get at least the full matching funds amount – it’s free money. Do a little bit of research, then open the account that seems like the best idea.

Automate your savings
Saving money takes willpower. Because it’s hard to practice self-denial on a constant basis, that extra $5 you’ve earmarked for savings can very easily turn into a mid-morning coffee. Fighting that impulse is a constant struggle. That’s why it’s easiest to avoid the decision altogether. Change your direct deposit to put some of your paycheck directly into a savings account, where you won’t even think of spending it impulsively.

Get educated
Knowledge is power, and that’s especially true in the world of personal finance. What you know about your money goes a long way toward determining how much of it you get to keep. There’s a lot to learn, but you’ve got a wealth of information at your fingertips. Resolve to read one personal finance article a week. Not only will this give you good ideas for improving your personal financial situation; you’ll also spend more time thinking about your money. That’ll lead to positive results down the line!

Happy New Year from all of us at Members Choice Credit Union.  We hope you have a safe, happy and prosperous 2018!

Click here for your free Reaching Your Goals worksheet!


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IRA 101

If you want to get a jump start on your retirement, an IRA (Individual Retirement Account) is a great way to do so.  Whether you aren’t covered by an employee plan at work or you just want to make sure you are setting a little extra aside to ensure you can retire comfortably.  It is never too early to start saving.

What is an IRA?

An IRA, as its name suggests, is an account in which you put away money for your future retirement.  Depending on the type of IRA you want to have, you will be able to grow your future retirement either tax-free or tax-deferred.  To explain what both of those mean, let’s look at two main types of IRAs: Traditional and Roth.

Traditional IRAs Offer Tax-Deferred Savings Growth

With a traditional IRA, the earnings from the deposits (contributions) you make into the account are tax-deferred.  This means you pay taxes on your savings and earnings when you withdraw the money at a later date (ideally, when you retire).  The contributions you make into the account are pre-tax.  So, at tax time, if you’re eligible, you can deduct the total amount deposited from your earned income, so you owe less in taxes now.

Roth IRAs Offer Tax-Free Savings Growth

With a Roth IRA, you can’t deduct your savings from your income the year it is contributed.  However, when you retire, you won’t have to pay taxes on the money you withdraw.  Your contributions into the account are post-tax; meaning, you’ll pay income tax on the money you put into the account, but any growth you earn from that money is tax-free.  Think of it this way: Traditional IRA = pay taxes later; Roth IRA = pay taxes now.

Which IRA is right for you?

The general rule of thumb is if you’ll be in a higher tax bracket when you retire, it might be beneficial for you to invest into a Roth IRA.  If you’re in a higher tax bracket now, it could be more beneficial for you to go with Traditional.  Obviously, you can’t be 100% certain about the future, so many investors suggest you keep a diversified retirement plan.  Since not all retirement plans or individual situations are the same, it’s always good to talk with a trusted financial advisor about what options would work best for you.

Getting started

With some exceptions, most people between the ages of 18 and 70 with earned income can open a new IRA.  However, the government limits the amount of money you can contribute each year.  The standard limit is $5500 annually with an additional $1000 allowed as a ‘catch-up’ contribution each year if you are older than 50.

Individual Retirement Accounts are an excellent way for you to save and grow your hard-earned money.  Any income you earn from interest can compound each year without taxes nipping away at your savings.  You can also escape taxes on either the money you contribute initially or on the money you withdraw in retirement, depending on which type of IRA you choose.  Even with the contribution limits, opening an IRA is a wise choice for anybody who wants to prepare for their future. Members Choice has a vested interest in both you and your family’s retirement, so please feel free to call or stop by and discuss options with us.

View our current IRA rates here.

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