Friday, March 29, 2013

Help Your Credit Score Soar!

We recently posted a blog breaking down the basics of what a Credit Score is for better understanding.  As promised, below is a list we've compiled of ways you can boost your Credit Score and make it soar!

-Pay Your Bills on Time:
Late (aka: ‘delinquent’) payments have a huge negative impact on your overall score.  The more you’re on time with bills, the better your score will get.

-Don’t Open More Cards than Necessary:

Multiple new accounts can start to lower your account ‘age’ and in turn, drop your score as well.

-Be a Responsible Manager:
Having Credit Cards is good, as long as you are good about keeping track of them (limits, payments, etc.).  Having no cards at all can be a higher risk, so be on top of the ones you do have.

-Maintain a Low Balance:

A higher ‘outstanding debt’ can really affect your overall score – it can be lowered over 50 points just by maxing out a card!

-Keep an Eye on your Credit Report:

From time to time, outdated or inaccurate details can show up on your Credit Report – this too can really damage your Credit Score.  Check your Report often, and if/when you see an error file a claim to get it fixed.

-Be Active:

Just having a credit card isn't going to increase your Credit Score – you have to use the card to really establish a strong credit.  Even if it’s a card you only use on groceries, get it – and use it wisely!

Last, but certainly not least --

-Be Persistent:
Improving your Credit Score can take years of diligent spending and dedication to watching your finances – it may not be easy, but we can promise that it will be worth it.  Commit yourself to practicing Financial Fitness today!

Good Credit can be essential to living without financial stress.  If you’d like to talk with one of us, or get help pulling your free Credit Report, call or stop in – we’re here for you!  Our Member’s financial being is always our priorityWe are People Helping People.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Credit Scores? Just Smile and Nod…

We often hear about the importance of a strong, well-kept Credit Score; but do you really understand what a Credit Score is?  Although the details are far from simple, we did our best to break it down and cover some main points to help you become more informed, so next time you’re asked about a Credit Score, you don’t have to just smile and nod

What Exactly is It?
A Credit Score is a 3 digit number generated by mathematical algorithms taken from various pieces of information within your Credit Report.  Basically, this calculated number aims to predict your risk as an individual and analyze the chances of you becoming a “delinquent” on different credit obligations. 

Who Uses It?
Your Credit Score is often used by financial institutions and credit card companies to evaluate your eligibility for lending money.  Your score can help determine if you qualify for a loan, what your limits are, and the interest rate.  However, Credit Scores are not only for financial institutions.  A variety of organizations (cell phone companies, insurance companies, landlords, etc.) can use your Credit Score information for the same techniques.  Your Credit Score can be the difference between a low or high interest rate, qualification for an apartment rental, and much more.

Are they All the Same?
While there are all kinds of existing Credit Score models, the most common is the FICO.  According to, “90 percent of all financial institutions in the U.S. use FICO scores” when making decisions.  Your FICO score can be anywhere in the 300 – 850 range; a higher FICO score number indicates lower risk.  There are three different Credit Bureaus that gather your score: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – this means each consumer has three FICO scores.  Your FICO score is made up from your Credit Report’s data that is sorted into 5 main categories (see below).  Within this model, some factors are weighed more heavily – like debt and payment history.

What Makes up the Score?
On the right, you’ll see a model of what goes into your Credit Score.  Your Payment History (35%) includes account payment information, including delinquencies and public records.  Your Amounts Owed (30%) is how much you owe on each of your accounts.  The Length of Credit History (15%) is the amount of time between activity on accounts and how long they've been open.  Types of Credit Used (10%) is the variety of accounts you have (installment and revolving).  Lastly, New Credit (10%) includes credit inquiries you've made, recently opened accounts, and your pursuing of new credit.  It is important to note that personal and demographic information (age, marital status, race, income, address, employment, etc.) do not affect your score.

With a better understanding of your Credit Score you can practice better control of your score.  Stay tuned for future blogs about how to build good scores, what can hurt your score, and becoming financially fit. If you have any questions, call or stop by today! We are People Helping People.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Presenting, Erica!

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome aboard!  If you’ll please take your seat, close all overhead compartments, fasten your seat belt, and turn your attention to the front of the … just kidding!  We are dedicating this blog to our lovely Member Services Representative, Erica, who before her time at SCFCU, dreamt of being a flight attendant.

We've been lucky enough to claim Erica as one of our own for almost 10 years! Erica was an employee with us for about 5 years in our St. Cloud office prior to leaving to do daycare and spend time with her children.  She came back in 2007, and we couldn't be happier to have her! Now you can find Erica’s smiling face at our Sartell location.  Erica says her favorite thing about working at St. Cloud Federal CreditUnion is her fun co-workers – we think she’s pretty fun to have around too!

When she’s not helping our Members, Erica likes to go camping and spend time with her family and friends.  If she could spend her vacation time anywhere, she’d take off to Hawaii – and we’re betting it’s because of the warm weather; Erica’s favorite season is spring because it means winter is over!  Math was Erica’s favorite subject in school, and if she could spend time learning any language she’d choose Spanish.  Her favorite color is red, Christmas is her favorite holiday, and when it aired, Friends was her favorite TV show.

What you might not know about Erica is that she can do the splits. Its true folks, we've seen her do it – don’t believe us? Click here to see for yourself!

Erica’s bubbly, positive personality is always a joy to have around and our Members are always glad to see her in the Sartell lobby or drive-upWe’re so happy you’re part of our team, Erica – thanks for all your work!

Spring Cleaning = Spring Saving

In the spirit of today being the first day of Spring (we know, it hardly feels like it) – we thought we’d blog accordingly!  Below is a list of 7 places to check for Spring savings when Spring cleaning

1. Light bulbs

When you’re cleaning and dusting off those light fixtures, why not dust the light bulbs too?  A clean light bulb will give off more light, giving you more ‘bang for your buck’.  If you have to replace any bulbs, consider doing so with energy efficient ones. 

2. Fridge

When you’re throwing out moldy, stinky, rotten food and scrubbing the grime off the shelves, take a look at your temperature dial; is it set colder than it needs to be? Is something blocking it from getting an accurate read?  If you see fit, adjust the temperature so the fridge is kept at suitable setting.  Also, take the extra time to pull the fridge away from the wall and dust off the back coils – this helps the fridge run more efficiently and with less energy (which = less money spent).

3. Filters
Although it is hard for many of us Minnesotans to imagine turning on the Air Conditioner, during your spring cleaning, check out the AC filter.  If necessary, toss the old one and install a new one – an old, beat up, unclean filter makes your AC do more work than necessary, and a new one can save you anywhere from 5% to 15% on yourbill. A good rule of thumb is to change your air filter 2-4 times a year.

4. Dishwasher
For many of us, the Spring Cleaning list doesn't include our dishwasher, but we suggest adding it! Bottom line: a clean dishwasher uses less water.  How? During rinse and wash cycles, many dishwashers will overcompensate for the dirty area surrounding your dirty dishes.  First, clean your dishwasher (door, shelves, racks, etc.) with warm vinegar water and then run a wash cycle with lemonade powder as the soap.   Last, clean the seal around the door – this way your dishwasher won’t pump out extra heat due to leaks. Voila! 

5. Dryer
The dryer is pretty basic, and keeping lint filters clean seems like common sense, we know.  This Spring, also remember to have your dryer ducts clean and like the fridge, clean behind your dryer to keep things running efficiently.  If you’re really looking to save – boycott the dryer all together on warm, sunny days and use a clothesline!

6. Roof
When you’re cleaning all the leaves out of your gutters, take a second to check at the ventilation in your attic.  Clean ventilation can help reduce the build up of heat (which means less cost on running the AC) and is also better for the life of your shingles.

7. Sliding Doors
Hopefully we’ll be using these soon to step on the back patio, but in the mean time - keep the sliding track clean.  Dust and dirt can build up over the winter months and loosen the seal – clearing that out can assure you that your air conditioner isn't doing more work than it has to

We know that Spring Cleaning is hardly exciting for most of us, but our financial fitness goals seem to be applicable to all areas of life: the good, the bad, the clean, and the dirty. Happy Spring and Happy Cleaning!

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Six Tricks to Play it Safe

At St. Cloud Federal Credit Union the safety of our Members and our community is extremely important to us.  When online, always take extra caution, especially when providing vulnerable information, like card numbers, full names, addresses etc. (most often needed for online shopping).  Here are six tricks to play it safe online …

1. If it doesn’t look ‘legit’, it’s not -
Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a particular website is legitimate or not, but if you’re questioning it – it’s better to err on the side of caution.  If you’re not sure, look for some ‘red flags’ like automatic pop-up windows, a strange address, or amateur design and layout.  If any of these occur – do yourself and your computer a favor, and exit the site!

2. Look for the ‘S’ - and Identity Theft 911 founder, Adam Levin, recommends you look for the ‘S’ in the “https” portion of the web address.  Not that all http addresses are bad news, but the ‘S’ stands for “secure”; better safe than sorry! 

3. Keep it Current -
Always update your anti-virus software when necessary! This is an extra shield for when you’re scouting out good deals and perusing the web. This also applies to your cell phone lock codes and passwords. 
Public Wi-Fi is great, but you never know who else is
 using it, and for not-so-good reasons.

4. Passwords are Key –
Don’t be afraid to change your passwords regularly (as long as you’ve got a method of remembering them) so that your accounts aren't easily accessible to outside sources.  Don’t stick to simple passwords or use any sort of private information within them.  Some methods we suggest are using both uppercase and lowercase letters, adding numbers and symbols, and avoid using full or popular words.

5. Use ID Theft Protection –
There are many services offered with various accounts (some for free!) that can help you protect your money and your identity.  Many experts suggest using a credit card or pay card because it tends to be easier to see and trace ‘erroneous charges’.  Keep an eye on your statements and don’t overlook anything that’s questionable.

6. Be Social Media Safe –
Just like cycling through passwords can keep accounts fresh and safe, so can avoiding questionable contacts.  If a Facebook post or Tweet looks fishy and out of the ordinary for a friend or business – avoid it.  We’re not saying you have to ‘unfriend’ or ‘unfollow’ that person or brand, but be aware that hackers can send things attempting to look as legitimate as possible. “BitDefender recommends treating messages from strangers as spam – just ignore them” (MSN Money).  Be as social as you want, but be safe while doing it!

Because we know time spent ‘surfing the web’ is always increasing, we always encourage awareness and safety on the internet. We are #PeopleHelpingPeople.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Meet Jessi

If you've been in the Lobby or Drive-Up of our St. Cloud location in the last 8+ years, chances are you've done a transaction or two with our very own Jessi. Isn't she great?  We wanted to take a moment (or in this case, a blog post) to allow you to get to know Jessi beyond her big smile and warm personality at the teller line.

Jessi has been an employee of St. Cloud Federal Credit Union for 8 ½ years and is happily working as a Senior Teller.  Her favorite part about working at SCFCU is getting to know our Members, whom she is committed to assuring are pleased with their visit.  Before life at the Credit Union, Jessi’s dream job was being the Head of Security for a Las Vegas Casino… we agree, she’s far too nice for that!

In her free time, you’ll often find Jessi at the gym, reading (whatever she can get her hands on), or browsing Pinterest.  Her favorite color is red, and she listens to almost any sort of music, but country, rock, and pop in particular.  Jessi’s favorite subject in school was History & Geography.  Being a history buff, it’s no wonder that Jessi’s favorite Holiday is the 4th of July!  If she could travel anywhere for a week, she’d hop a plane to Italy, and probably in the summer months – since that is her favorite season.

If you haven’t seen Jessi running a local marathon, we’ll let you in on a secret- she’s a fitness guru!  If given the chance to spend time with any celebrity for a day, she'd choose Bob Harper, a trainer on reality TV show The Biggest Loser talk about a workout!  If she could, Jessi would also like to be on game show The Amazing Race; we think she’d be perfect.

Jessi is a wonderful, bright, friendly employee here at SCFCU and we know we’re so lucky to have her.  Thanks for all you do for us and our Members, Jessi!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bill Who? Bill What? BILL PAYER!

With St. Cloud Federal Credit Union, you have the opportunity to use our Bill Payer service, free of charge.  What is Bill Payer, you may ask?

Bill Payer is a safe and secure way to pay your bills online through your checking account at SCFCU.  It’s a great alternative to writing checks or logging onto several individual websites to pay your bills.

Bill Payer is easily accessible through our Online Banking section of our website.  Bill Payer allows you to designate several different ‘payees’; anything from heating and electric, to cable, to your daycare provider.  Most ‘common’ payees (which is about 85% of all payments) will be sent electronically, the other roughly 15% are sent out by check.  Depending on how your payment is sent, Bill Payer only needs a 3 to 6 day lead period to guarantee your payments arrive on time – which can help you avoid late fees!

When you use Bill Payer, your payment history is stored for approximately 18 months, allowing you to review your payments as needed.  Bill Payer also has a built-in security feature that sends you an email alert any time a new payee is created, when a payment is added, or when a payment is deleted – so you’re in the loop of everything that’s going on in your Bill Payer.

Member’s who have tried Bill Payer tell us all the time how much they love it, and that they can’t imagine going back and paying their bills any other way.

If you’re already using Bill Payer, check out our March promotion by clicking here. If you’d like to learn more about using Bill Payer or want to sign up – call or stop by, we’re happy to walk you through it and help get you started! Get #FinanciallyFit and take the stress out of paying bills!

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Reward Yourself!

Are you tired of driving around, wasting all that gas looking for just the right ATM so you don’t get charged those pesky fees? Sorry, we don’t know the feeling.  Why?  Reward Checking, of course!

When you use SCFCU Reward Checking, we reimburse your national ATM fees (up to $25) each month.  By enrolling in Reward Checking, not only will you get those darn fees back monthly, you will also automatically have our 24/7 Fraud Detection benefit with Triple-Bureau Credit Monitoring, as well as Fraud & I.D. Theft Recovery.

If you are interested in Reward Checking, call or stop by! We’re always here to help in any way we can.  For a full list of rewards and details,  click here.  Work toward Financial Fitness today... Reward yourself!

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