Tuesday, January 29, 2013

More on the New 4% Checkout Fee

 It’s a bummer that the newly announced 4% 'checkout fee' was approved, and unfortunately we, as a Credit Union cannot do anything about it.  This added fee is 100% on the Merchant’s end; they make the decision if and how much they’ll charge.  In light of the expressed frustration of many, we hope to answer some basic questions about the new fee and fill you in on what we know.

As of Sunday, January 27th, 2013, stores can pass the cost of payment processing on to the customers who use a MasterCard or VISA credit card.  The merchant can charge anywhere between 1.5% and 4% per transaction; news sources say typically you’ll see the tax between 1.5% and 3%, but it absolutely cannot be higher than 4%.  For example, if you bought a new shirt for $50.00 using your credit card, a retailer could charge $52.00 for not paying with cash or a debit card. 

There are ten states that are not legally allowed to impose the surcharge, including: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas.  Likewise, during the settlement some retailers had the option to not charge the new tax on its customers – so a bit of good news is that not everyone will be implementing the surcharge.

Q: How will I know if I'm going to be charged?
A: Merchants and retailers are required to clearly disclose that they will be implementing the credit card surcharge as well as the amount.  Look for a sign when entering a store, check your receipt, or online - look on the checkout screen or the homepage.

Q: If I use my debit or check card and select 'credit' rather than debit, will I be charged?
A: No! No matter how your debit card is processed after the sale, surcharging is not allowed unless it is a CREDIT CARD.  This new fee does not apply to purchases made with a debit card, so feel free to continue selecting the 'credit' option when using it!

Q: What stores won't charge me?
A: Various larger retailers like Target, Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Macy's, Toys-R-Us, JCPenny, the Limited brands, and more 'vowed' not to tack on the extra tax to their consumers in any state.  Some claimed that "the new tax threatens merchants' priority to keep prices low for consumers."

Q: Why did this new surcharge happen?
A: The new checkout fee is a result of one of the largest anti-trust settlements in U.S. history.  According to Huffington Post Business News, "In 2005, a group of merchants claimed that MasterCard, Visa, and nine other companies including JP Morgan Chase & Co. conspired to fix the fees that stores pay to accept credit card purchases".  As a result of the case, "the merchants are allowed to charge customers a fee equal to the cost of the accepting card".

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Series of Saving: Part 2 of 4

Greetings and welcome to part 2 of our Series of Saving! Hopefully you've been inspired by our previous blog post and are back for more ways to save money...   

6. Clip Away
While some may say not to clip coupons in order to avoid excess spending, we say clip away!  If you have a grocery list written and a budget set for what you can spend, look for coupons for the items that you’ll be purchasing anyway.  However, if you feel as though your clipping is getting out of hand – put down the scissors and walk away.

7. BYOB (Bag, not Beverage!)
When you bring your own shopping bags, many stores give you 5 cents off per bag! It seems small, but a nickel saved is a nickel earned.

8. Sip from a Reusable Water Bottle
Plastic water bottles can be expensive and wasteful.  If you’re spending extra for bottled water, put the money toward a water filter instead and switch to a reusable water bottle.  Both your wallet and the environment will thank you.

9. Quit Smoking
We know this is much easier said than done, but if you need a little extra motivation, here you go: when you quit smoking you won’t only save money from cigarette purchases, but your insurance premiums may go down as well.

10. Cut the Home Phone
Stop and ask yourself if you really need that home phone line you’re paying for.  If you find you use your cell for most calls, maybe it’s time to get rid of the ‘ol land line.

Remember, this is a four-part series, we'll have more money saving tips coming your way soon - Happy saving!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Start Saving Today! Part 1 of 4

Welcome to part 1 of our Series of Saving! We’ve compiled a list of 20 ways to save money that we'll share with you over a period of time. Saving is easier said than done, but when you're lacking inspiration, you've got us!   They may not all be big, grand ways to save - but we’ve all got to start somewhere, right?  

1. Carpool
Do you and a co-worker live in the same neighborhood? Do you and your neighbor work in the same area of town? Do your children and another family’s share extra curricular activities?  Start to carpool! By taking turns driving every other week you’ll start to save money on gas.

2. Brew at Home
Ditch your morning stop and brew your coffee at home.  Buying grounds (or beans, if you prefer) will save you money on pricey beverages and avoid the gas (and time) of stopping!  Grab a bag of Starbucks or Caribou at a local grocery store and you can save up to $3 a day- which means $21 a week, $84 a month, and a whole $1,008 a year!

3.  Buy Generic
When you purchase name brands, you’re often paying for just that- the brand.  Next time you’re buying flour, butter, toilet paper, or ibuprofen, go for the generic.  If you’re curious, compare the labels and you’ll often find the exact same thing.  Buying the store-brand can save you up to 25% each trip!

4.  Get a Piggy-Bank
Ok, so it doesn’t have to be in the form of a pig; grab a jar, cup, bowl – whatever!  By collecting your pocket change each day you can cash in later.

5. Brown-Bag it
Packing your own lunch for work can save you a lot of money over a period of time.  If you like to go out with friends or co-workers for lunch, set a certain amount of times (say, twice each month) or a budget you’ll spend on taking lunch breaks out.  Chances are your brown bag lunch will be more nutritious, keeping you and your wallet in better shape.

We hope you found these suggestions both helpful and inspiring.  Remember, this is only # 1 of our Series of Saving, so stay tuned for our other tips! 


We’re Hiring!

Are you looking for employment? Well you’re in luck, because we’ve got four openings; three in our St. Cloud office, and one in our Sartell office.

Full-time Mortgage Loan Processor – 40 hours a week:
This position is open in our St. Cloud office and requires secondary market mortgage process experience.  If you would like more information or have questions, feel free to contact Jim Arnold at 320-258-2174.  If not, click here to complete an online application for this position.

Part-time Teller – 20 hours a week:
This position is at our St. Cloud office and consists of afternoon hours, as well as 2-3 Saturdays a month.  If you would like more information or have questions, feel free to contact Mary Hetherington at 320-258-2155.  If not, click here to complete an application for the position.

Part-time Greeter – 18 hours a week:
This position is at our St. Cloud office and consists of afternoon hours, as well as 2-3 Saturdays a month. If you would like more information or have questions, feel free to contact Barb Toenjes at 320-258-2150.  If not, click here to complete an application for the position.

Part-time Phone Center Representative:
This position is from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and every other Saturday at our Sartell office; banking experience is preferred.  If you would like more information or have questions, feel free to contact Sharon Peterson at 320-252-2634.  If not, click here to complete an application for the position.

We will retain all applications for at least 6 monthsThank you for your interest in St. Cloud Federal Credit Union, we look forward to seeing your application!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Stress Less!

Getting financially fit and saving money can not only help reduce your level of stress, but has the power to improve your quality of life. How?

Rainy days won’t seem quite so rainyWhat do we mean? Well, when you have funds saved up, it can help cover emergencies and unplanned expenses.  Did you know that 78% of us will be presented with a major negative event within a ten year period (Money Magazine)? It’s true! Wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry? Start saving and stop worrying!

Retirement will be that much sweeterFor some, this may be farther off than for others –either way, if you start planning for your retirement now, you’ll thank yourself later.  A whopping 49% of Americans are currently not saving for retirement (CNN Money).  By not relying on social security and instead taking advantage of 401K plans and/or meeting with a financial advisor you can greatly reduce your retirement stress.

Freedom will ringFreedom of debt is one of the best freedoms.  Studies show that when purchasing with ‘plastic’ rather than cash you’ll spend 12-18% more!  Quit digging yourself into the holes of debt; rather than putting big purchases on credit, save up!  This can help you avoid the stress and hassles of debt and can help you build interest.  When planning for bigger expenses by saving, you’ll be more conscious of where and how you’re spending – making the purchase worth your while.

You’ll just feel betterFinances affect nearly every aspect of life.  By reducing financial stress, you’ll be able to have a more positive outlook on many situations.  You’ll be able to feel better about your spending and know that should an unfortunate situation occur, you won’t be scrambling. Get financially fit today


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Jumpstart your Financial Fitness!

With financial fitness as our 2013 goal, we’re committed to providing you with ways in which you can become more financially fit yourself.  As mentioned previously, financial fitness requires conscious thinking – but with small changes here and there, we’re confident you’ll begin to feel more ‘fit’.  Here are a few of the many ways to kick-off your own financial fitness…

1.  Create a Budget (or revise the one you have!)
This can be as big or as small as you’re willing to make it.  You could have a yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, or daily budget for yourself.  We recommend starting one week at a time and seeing how you do.  Be realistic, but be diligent! There are thousands of budgeting tips (charts, methods, etc.) out there if you’re looking for a place to start.

2. Reduce Debt if Possible
This can be a scary and difficult process, so it's OK to start small.  This way, you’ll feel more successful and be more willing to begin chipping away at any larger debts you may have.  Start out by making short term goals. Look for other ways to reduce your debt, like consolidating credit cards or refinancing loans.

3. Cut Corners where you Can
Look for small ways that can save you big in the long run.  Unplug appliances and electronics when they’re not being used, use coupons, brew your morning coffee at home, eat out less, avoid ATM fees, etc.

4. Be Proactive
Start saving now and you’ll thank yourself later! Take advantage of 401K programs, commit to putting a set amount in a savings fund each month, or collect your pocket change in a piggy bank.  You never know when a rainy day may come along, and some saving is better than no saving!

5. Ask for Help
It’s OK to ask for help, especially when it comes to things like your finances.  Seeing a financial advisor can take you leaps and bounds. Always use your resources!

Hopefully this short, but broad list gets you thinking about ways in which you can be more financially fit.  We’re always here for help, support, and encouragement! #PeopleHelpingPeople


Monday, January 14, 2013

2013: The Year of Financial Fitness

In 2013, our goal at St. Cloud Federal Credit Union is to educate, support, and encourage our Members to be financially fit.  But what exactly is Financial Fitness, you might ask?  Allow us to explain…

Financial Fitness isn’t a whole lot different that physical fitness, really.  For starters, they are both important to your personal well-being and security.  Instead of building muscle and physical stamina, financial fitness allows you to build finances – which can help your money be more efficient.  Like being in shape, financial fitness can help you handle various challenges and unexpected situations that may arise, and allow you to respond without excess worry.  Acting with a financially fit mindset involves sharpening your money management and planning skills.

Like ‘fitness’ in other areas of life (physical, emotional, etc.) financial fitness is the practice of making healthy, beneficial choices that create better financial situations for you. Just as losing weight is often easier said than done, financial fitness requires conscious thinking and commitment; likewise, it will be worth it in the end!  Working together to achieve financial fitness can build a better, stronger, healthier life for you, your family, and the economy. And to help, we’re here for our Members every step of the way to provide education, support, and encouragement; we are People Helping People.  

With Financial Fitness on the brain, we’re excited about providing tips, tricks, and helpful hints through a variety of mediums –find us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, or LinkedIn.

Click here to participate in our Facebook Contest - WIN a $100 NIKE GIFT CARD!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

More than Meets the Eye: The Difference Between Banks and Credit Unions

At their most basic aspects, banks and credit unions appear to be very similar.  At both institutions you can cash a check, drive up to a window and speak with a Teller, and inquire about things like loans or mortgages. Credit unions and banks both provide financial services.   However, when you look beneath the surface you’ll find that banks and credit unions are quite different.

First and foremost, banks are for-profit businesses.  At St. Cloud Federal Credit Union, we offer banking services, but are a not-for-profit financial cooperative.

Any profit generated by the credit union is returned to its members.  This can help keep fees and loan rates lower, and savings rates higher.  Our emphasis is, and always has been, on superior Member Service.  A bank’s profit goes back to its investors, not customers.  At a bank, you’re a customer, at a credit union you’re part owner, and a Member of our institution.

Banks are owned by private or public investors. To these investors, a bank is a way to make a return on their investment.  St. Cloud Federal Credit Union (like other Credit Unions) is owned by its Members.  We are a “financial cooperative” that consists of individuals with a common affiliation.  In our case, that affiliation is geographic.

Banks are run by officers and directors (chosen by bank owners), who are legally bound to make decisions in the interest of the stockholders.  Many of these officers and directors are located out-of-state and customarily receive director fees, per diem, stock options, and other perks.  Similar to the banking industry, credit unions are governed by a board of directors.  This board consists of oversight committees and volunteers who are Members elected by other Members.  Because our board of directors are not stockholders, they receive no compensation for their commitment and service.  Because we don’t have stockholders, our mission and goal is to satisfy and keep Members happy.

When choosing a financial institution, the most important aspect to consider is your individual needs.  If being part of a cooperative effort appeals to you, joining a credit union may be what you’re looking for; not just for the exceptional Member service and rates, but for the community aspect – We are People Helping People.