Leveraging 3 Common Banking Tools for Your Financial Gain

Financial literacy in America is not the best. Many highly intelligent people were never taught the fundamental precepts of proper money handling habits, and it can cause them to make poor financial decisions. Still, there are ways to get the upper hand using very basic financial tools. Here are three examples that you can get from a local credit union.


  1. Cash Back Credit Cards 

Roughly seven out of 10 Americans have one or more credit cards, but many of those people likely misuse them. A line of credit is a potential loan amount that you can use on a monthly basis. If you pay back the loan in full every month you won’t be required to pay interest on your balance. Paying in full and on time will also increase your credit score over time, making it easier to secure loans and rent apartments. Certain cards also give cash back rewards. Whether they give points or a percentage of each transaction, these perks can add up over time. You must remember to pay your bills on time, though, or else you risk paying more in interest than the cash back rewards are worth.    


2. Checking Account

A checking account makes it easier to pay for things like utilities, rent, phone bills, and even your credit bill in one place. Most checking accounts these days have the option for auto pay, a convenient way to automate your monthly bills. You won’t need to worry about missed payments once you set this up.


3. Saving Account

Savings accounts can award you a great interest rate for storing your money in a credit union. And they can also give you options. If you need money in a hurry, you can’t really remove money from an IRA or from the stock market. Plus, your checking account is reserved for paying bills. A savings account can be treated as a separate money accumulation fund for emergencies.


There are many other financial tools at your disposal once you learn more about money management. These three are very common examples of banking tools people often underutilize. If you can leverage them correctly, you can become much more financially secure.


You may be deep into your summer routine of lazy afternoons at the beach, family day trips and bedtimes postponed in favor of firefly-chasing, but back-to-school season is already in full swing. 

And, any way you slice it, it’s going to be expensive! Between new backpacks, textbooks, a long list of supplies and a fresh autumn wardrobe, most parents are looking at a bill of close to $700 for school-related expenses this season.   

Be proactive and save big! Read on for our handy list of back-to-school shopping hacks that will help you keep more money in your wallet. 

  1. Plan to shop 5 times
    To take full advantage of the sales and clearance events throughout the summer, don’t buy everything at once. Plan on making 5 shopping trips this season, and you’ll get the best prices out there. 
  2. Stock up
    No, your child doesn’t need a 6-month supply of No.2 pencils for the first day of school or five spare pocket-folders. But, if you buy enough school supplies while prices are low to last through the first half of the year — or even all the way into June — you’ll save big. 
  3. Take advantage of loss leaders
    Every week during back-to-school season, retailers will advertise one product at a super-low price. This is their loss leader, an item priced so cheaply that retailers actually lose money on sales. Of course the bargain-priced product attracts customers, so it’s worthwhile for the retailer, but all you need to worry about is snagging those ridiculous prices. Make sure you catch those hot deals! 
  4. Shop the dollar store
    Before you hit the typical retail stores, shop for real bargains at dollar stores like Dollar Tree and Family Dollar. You can find calculators, paper, pencils, pens and more — for just a buck! 
  5. Buy designer backpacks online
    If your kid is begging for a brand-name backpack, but you don’t want to shell out big bucks for a label, check out sites like 6PM and eBags. You’ll find fantastic deals on designer backpacks that will keep both the fashion-conscious child and mom happy. 
  6. Look for manufacturer coupons
    Comb circulars, like RedPlum and SmartSource, for manufacturer coupons from supply companies like Bic and Mead. You can also find them in magazines geared toward parents like Parenting or on online coupon sites, like Retailmenot and CouponCabin. These are usually steeper discounts than retailer coupons and they can be combined with in-store specials. 
  7. Decode price tags
    When shopping for new clothing, you want to know if you’re getting the best deal possible.Most stores have a system for tagging items at their final markdown. Learn how to decode price tags and you’ll save big.
    Here’s how these popular stores mark their lowest prices:

    1. The Gap: Ending in $.97
    2. Target: Ending in an 8
    3. Old Navy: Ending in $.47
    4. TJMaxx: Yellow price tag
  8. Shop through Ebates for cash back
    Do all your online shopping through cash-back sites, like Ebates, and get 2-4% of every purchase back. Ebates is affiliated with almost every major retailer, and it hardly takes any extra effort to shop through their site. It’s like getting paid to shop! 
  9. Coordinate with other parents
    To help you get the best deals and save some time, work together with other parents of school-aged kids. If you’re in Walmart when they have their penny deals on pencils and you can get a box of 24 for just $0.50, offer to buy a few boxes for your friend’s kids. And, when your friend finds the super-hot deal on crayons, they’ll pick up a few boxes for your kids. That’s money saved and fewer trips to the store.
  10. Use the season to teach your kids financial responsibility
    With all the kid-centered shopping this season, it’s the perfect time for some financial lessons. Is your child desperate for designer supplies? Offer to pay for the regular price and let her fill in the rest with her own money. Give your older kids a list and some cash and let them shop on their own. Offer children a choice between a pricier backpack or a new pair of shoes. The teachable moments during back-to-school shopping are everywhere! 
  11. Check out gift-card sites before you shop
    Save by buying discounted gift cards to stores, like Michael’s and JCPenney, on sites like GiftCardGranny and Raise. 
  12. Use the Amazon App to price-match
    Have your phone handy when shopping so you can comparison-shop when buying your supplies. If an item is cheaper on Amazon, why buy it at the store (especially if you are an Amazon Prime member and can get free shipping)? 

    1. H&M: Save 20% on one item when you text your email address to 707-03
    2. Kohl’s: Save 15% off your entire order by texting SAVE15 to 564-57
    3. Old Navy: Sign up for a weekly text alert by texting 6046 to 653-689 and get a $5 coupon, and also sign up for promotional emails at OldNavy.com and you’ll be rewarded with a 30%-off coupon
    4. Crazy8: Sign up for emails and receive 18% off your next order, plus free shipping
    5. The Children’s Place: Input your email address in the pop-up box on TheChildrensPlace.com and get a $10 coupon.
  13. Sign up for promotional mail
    Most major retailers offer a discount for signing up for their promotional emails or text messages. 
  14. Take advantage of price-matching
    Lots of stores you’ll be shopping at this season, like Office Depot, Staples and Target, offer to match any competitor’s prices. Take advantage of this generous offer by coming prepared with an online price posting of a cheaper item you’ve found elsewhere. You’ll visit fewer stores this way and save money, too.
  15. Shop early in the week 
    Weekly sales go live on Sundays and the best stuff gets grabbed first. Shop Sundays and Mondays so you never miss out on a great deal again. 

Save big this season with Members Choice’s back-to-school shopping hacks! 

Tips and Tricks to Help You Choose the Best Auto Loan

credit cardsChoosing to finance a vehicle is a popular choice nowadays. In fact, 43% of car owners are choosing to finance their vehicle. But if you’re looking for an auto loan, it’s important you know how to select the best one for you. Auto loans come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s crucial that you choose the right one for your situation. So let’s take a look at a few simple tips that can guide you in the right direction when financing your vehicle.

Compare rates: First off, you shouldn’t just go with the first lender you speak with. This is never a good idea when it comes to finances, especially with things like loans and credit cards. So to make sure you’re getting the best deal, you should speak with multiple lenders before making a decision. In doing this, you’ll be able to compare rates and all other aspects of the loan. For example, a credit union auto loan could have vastly different rates than another financial institution. Overall, it’s important to explore all of your options before making a final decision.

Consider the length: Today’s car loans are longer than ever to keep up with the increasing price of vehicles. And while it may seem nice to have lower payments over a longer period of time, this can hurt you in the long run. Longer loans generally have higher interest rates, meaning you’ll be paying more overall. So when you’re choosing a loan, make sure you’re considering the length of the loan — don’t get fooled by upfront prices. It’s important to always remember how interest rates will add up over time.

Remember extra fees: Many people make the mistake of thinking that once they get approved for an auto loan, all they’ll have to worry about is the monthly payment. However, that isn’t always the case. When you choose to finance a vehicle, you’ll also have to pay for things like sales tax, documentation fees, and warranties. So when you’re making your budget for an auto loan, make sure you’re thinking about all of the extra fees you’ll have to pay as well.

Auto loans aren’t like credit cards, which you can use and pay off at will. You’ll be paying off your auto loan for years to come — so make sure you’re following these tips and getting the best auto loan possible.

Regulation D: How Does It Affect Me?

Have you ever wondered about the real differences between your savings and checking accounts? Many people realize there must be more to it than just the fact that one includes checks and the other does not. However, they just don’t know what those differences are. So let’s look at some of the technical differences that define each account type.

Read More →

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.

Discover more of what your Members Choice Credit Union has to offer!

form with pen


computer screen with dollar sign

Great Rates

nest eggs with dollar bills


location pin

ATM Locations