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4 Things You Can Do Instead of Singing Economic Recovery Blues

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According to a recent Pew Research survey, U.S. consumers’ assessment of their personal financial situations has changed very little since the beginning of the economic recovery in 2009. One piece of explanatory data comes from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which reported a meager 3.2 percent growth in per-capita disposable personal income (or your personal income after taxes) over the 5-year period. In fact, the current recovery’s disposable personal income growth rate is the lowest of any economic recovery in the U.S. since the 1960s.

Even if you are one of the many consumers whose financial (or career) expectations haven’t been met by the current economic recovery, plenty of opportunities still exist to take advantage of the time and hone your personal finances. Here are a few:

Continue to Pay Off Student Debt

The majority of young-adult (ages 20 to 40) households with student debt have less than $10,000 of it. However, the New York Times reports that at 4 percent in 2010, “the share of income that a typical student debtor has to devote to loan payments is only marginally higher than it was in the early 1990s.” Though you may not have a lot of money to devote to your student loans, even $50 or $100 each month would help establish the direction of your finances towards the elimination of debt (as opposed to its accumulation).

Finish Your College Degree

If you took out loans to begin college and walked away before receiving a degree, you may want to consider returning to finish the necessary coursework. The income gap is widening between those with a college degree and those without, and you could increase your employment opportunities and future earning potential by completing the degree.

Plan for a Financial Emergency

Even if you think you are in line to receive a raise or promotion, it is a wise idea to be financially prepared for a pay cut, layoff, or other monetary pitfall. Saving up three to six months’ worth of income in a bank account may seem tedious, but it is a healthy financial practice, and a great way to avoid having to take on emergency debt in an adverse circumstance. Checking your financial institution’s health, especially to make sure your funds are federally insured, is also a part of planning for an emergency. In some instances of bank failure, even if your funds are insured, it can take days and even weeks to receive them – it would be best to avoid the risk of those instances altogether with your emergency funds.

Pick Up a Side Job or Two

A weaker than expected jobs recovery has contributed to a host of creative employment ideas in the “sharing economy.” Uber, Instacart, and TaskRabbit are examples of companies that connect consumers in order to create mutually beneficial transactions, such as grocery delivery or car rides. Odd jobs abound in this economy, especially as full-time work becomes scarcer. Developing another source of income that would require minimal ongoing commitment is a great way to create your own financial recovery.

The current economic recovery may not be an automatic boon for you financially, but you should still take advantage of the many ways to improve your personal finances and set yourself up for future success. The above suggestions may also help you weather another economic downturn and prepare you to better take advantage of the next recovery.

This article was written by Patrick Russo.

How to Save Money While Vacationing

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Need to get away? You should! NerdWallet to the rescue to tell us how to cut a few costs so it doesn’t hurt as bad when we get back home to the budget.

Vacation is your time to kick back, relax and enjoy life, right? Unfortunately, too often this attitude leads to out-of-control spending by those who aren’t careful. Thankfully, there are easy, relatively painless ways to cut vacation costs without sacrificing any of the fun. Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Create a budget and stick to it

First, figure out what you can afford to spend. Creating a budget for the trip can help you keep expenses from spiraling way beyond your means.

It starts with cataloging estimated costs for getting to your destination, lodging, moving around the area, eating and entertainment. If the grand total is way out of line with what you can afford for the trip, you can look for ways to cut back.

Once you’ve worked out a reasonable budget, print it out and bring it along. During your holiday, pack a pocket-size notebook to record what you spend each day. This will help you track expenses, compare them to your daily plan and stick with it.

Save on lodging

Instead of staying at a brand-name hotel, try finding an less expensive alternative. In many areas, you can rent private accommodations for short-term stays through websites such as Airbnb and HomeAway. Finding a place to stay with kitchen facilities can help you avoid too many pricey restaurant meals

Travelers saved about 21% on average by renting an apartment or home on Airbnb compared to the nightly cost of a hotel in the U.S., according to a study last year by Priceonomics. Those that rented a room in an occupied home or apartment saved more than 49%. Other less-costly alternatives include hostels and home exchanges.

Cutting food costs

Eating expenses can be one of the costliest parts of a vacation. Having a few meals at nice restaurants for fun – after all, it’s a vacation – doesn’t mean you need to do that three times a day to enjoy the trip.

Bringing along snacks and beverages purchased from a low-cost market near home is one way to cut your food costs. Stock up on snacks that won’t spoil, such as microwavable popcorn, granola and dried fruit. Instead of buying bottled water or other drinks, get a re-useable water bottle with a purification filter.

Try to book a hotel room or other accommodation that has access to kitchen facilities so you can prepare your own meals. A room with just a microwave and a mini-refrigerator can save you a bundle.

When you do plan to eat out, check sites like Groupon and LivingSocial for potential deals in the area where you’re staying. Ask people you meet or encounter about reputable food trucks, inexpensive sandwich shops, cafes or restaurants that are nearby. You can also find low-cost options by looking at online review sites.

Transportation savings

If you’re flying to your destination, plan to travel light – some airlines charge extra for carry-on bags. Even if you check your luggage, if a bag is over a certain weight, you can face an additional fee.

With high fuel prices, you may save a lot by using public transportation, walking or bicycling to get around once you’re at your vacation destination. If you absolutely have to rent a car, try to get a small hybrid that gets high mileage per gallon.

Credit card benefits

It’s always smart to have a decent amount of cash on hand when you travel for incidental expenses or times when a merchant won’t take plastic. However, using a credit card can help protect you from theft and fraud while rewarding your spending with points or cash rebates.

Lots of cards offer these benefits, and some let you transfer points you earn on your transactions to airline frequent-flier or other rewards programs run by hotel and rental-car chains. Some issuers, including Great Basin Credit Union with its Visa Platinum card, provide 24-hour fraud protection to insulate you from unauthorized charges and supply travel accident insurance.

Just remember that you need to pay off your full balance each month to avoid paying interest on what you’ve charged and raising the final cost of your trip.

Simple steps like those mentioned here can go a long way toward making sure your sweet vacation memories don’t go sour when the bills arrive months later.

Steve Nicastro, NerdWallet

We’ll leave it up to you how much planning you do before your vacation, but hopefully one of these tips can help for a care-free trip and a happy, relaxed return. Bon voyage!

Exciting News for CUs

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Exciting news for CUs! (Hey, that rhymes.)

Credit unions have reached 100 million memberships nationwide! That’s one in every three Americans!

“There is clearly a growing recognition about credit unions among consumers,” said Diana Dykstra, president and CEO of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues, the trade association for credit unions in both states. “They understand credit unions place their interests above all else, particularly in returning financial benefits to consumer members in the forms of lower rates on loans, higher returns on savings, and lower and fewer fees.” In 2013, those financial benefits totaled more than $6 billion.

As cooperatives, credit unions are owned by their members and exist to provide financial services to those members. Its structure—as not-for-profit, democratically led and cooperatively owned financial institutions–allows credit unions to maintain a focus on returning financial benefits to members. This has led to credit unions earning the satisfaction and trust of their existing members. 2.85 million joined between June 2013-June 2014!

We think this calls for a quick flashback to our roots and how far we have come. Last year we had the privilege of interviewing Jack Dunn, one of our founding members and first President. Not only are Jack and his wife the greatest of people, but what they have to say is pretty interesting if you have a minute…

 We wish we could bring cake and balloons to each and every one of you in celebration of credit unions, members like you, and all you’ve done to share the word about credit unions. Alas, we cannot. BUT we do have one Member Appreciation Day left this year at our Main Branch on August 15th from 11-2! Come on over to mingle with (and take selfies with) the execs, grab some goodies, and eat a delicious ice cream treat! Thank you for your membership. We’re so glad you belong.

If you aren’t a credit union member yet, you can find out more about credit unions and find one in your community here: http://www.weownourbank.com/

Feeling Perky

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To anyone who knows me, it’s not a secret that I love Credit Unions and I love my job. We’re “people helping people”, and that’s really cool. What else is there? Credit Unions have this special quality about them where … get this… they aren’t in it for the money. We’re owned by our members, and all financial decisions are made by the volunteer members for the good of the whole membership. We love helping our community and we love feeling like we’re offering our members something truly valuable. Saving you money on your monthly loan payment, not charging fees for everything, knowing your name when you come see us… that kind of valuable. Sometimes, the value we can offer comes from companies that partner with us to give our members something they’ll use at a discount. We’re really pretty choosy about who we partner with, so you can be sure that we’ve done our diligence in checking them out and making sure the perk is good. Everything from discounts on your tax products to free no-pressure financial consulting to discounts on Wolf Pack tickets to deals on your next car! We love our members. Did I mention that?

Anyways, some months we highlight one of our partners (you may have noticed in your statement inserts or ever-changing branch décor) and help get the good word out about how cool they are and how members can use them. This month, we’re talking about Sprint. If you’re like me, you may have been with your cell phone carrier since you got your first Nokia at the turn of the century. It could be a perfect time to take a look at what else is out there. So let me help you start your research. Here’s what Sprint can offer to members of my favorite credit union:

Individuals

  • Get 10% off of select regularly priced Sprint monthly service
  • Have your activation fee waived (up to $36 in savings)
  • Have your upgrade fee waived (up to $36 in savings)
  • Use Corporate ID: NACUC_ZZM to claim your discount

Business

  • Get 15% off of select regularly priced Sprint monthly service
  • Have your activation fee waived (up to $36 in savings)
  • Have your upgrade fee waived (up to $36 in savings)
  • Use Corporate ID: NACUC_ZDS_ZZM to claim your discount

3 Ways to Get Your Discount:

  • Call 877.SAVE.4CU (877.728.3428) and let them know you’re a credit union member and use one of the Corporate ID numbers above.
  • Click LoveMyCreditUnion.org/Sprint
  • Visit your nearest Sprint store

 

There you have it. Easy. Peasy. Peezy? Peazie. I don’t know… but I do know you can save on your monthly bill and put that towards something else in your budget and I LOVE that! Be sure to check out all the other perks and discounts you get. And don’t hesitate to ask us if you need more info. Happy to help.

Summer Jobs Can Help Teens Learn to Save

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In another guest post from our friends at NerdWallet, we’re talking all about summer jobs. Do we recommend setting up a kissing booth? Now that’s up to you. Enjoy…

Income from a summer job offers a great opportunity to teach a teenager smart savings habits that could last a lifetime. Your teen may be lucky to have seasonal work: Summer employment rates for 16- to 19-year-olds have dropped significantly since 2000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many teens now spend their summers in college prep courses or traveling, but their need to develop financial skills for the future doesn’t diminish.

If your teen does have a job this summer, use it as a way to teach good financial habits and how to save, a skill just as valuable for the future as learning to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

Four steps to saving

First-time paychecks can be exciting to teens, but it’s best to keep the money well managed. Here are four steps to help develop good saving and spending habits.

  1. Money diary
    Money diaries are a great way to determine where a teen’s pay goes. Have your child list income from all sources and all spending. This can be tracked in a notebook or, if your teen is tech savvy, on a computer spreadsheet or with a smartphone application like Spendee. Check each month’s entries to see how well goals are being met.
  2. Budgeting 
    Budgeting is a key aspect of financial success. Have a conversation with your teen about setting savings goals and how to reach them. It can be a good idea to share your own budget to give your teen a sense of how it works in the real world. You might even agree to provide an extra incentive by matching whatever your teen saves this summer.
  3. Smart spending
    Being financially savvy includes smart spending, as well as saving. Encourage your teen to find coupons, sales and other ways to save, especially on big purchases. Help your teen avoid the small expenses that add up, like expensive coffee drinks or other treats. If your teen comes to regret a purchase, use that to start a conversation about smart shopping.
  4. Young Investor Accounts
    Encourage your teen to set aside a certain amount of money each week. You might use a savings calculator to help show the long-term benefits of regularly saving money by discussing goals such as paying for a car or college. Having the money out of sight and out of mind will reduce the temptation to spend.

How credit unions can help

There are several ways you can help your teen learn to save. Many financial institutions offer programs geared to teens, such as Great Basin Federal Credit Union’s Young Investor Account for 13- to 17-year-olds (which also offers interest on their savings). The Great Basin accounts can also incorporate checking and debit/credit cards so participants can learn to balance spending and savings. A parent or guardian is required on these accounts, which provides access so a teen’s spending and saving habits can be monitored.

By helping your teen learn good habits with summer pay, you can give the youngster a head start on saving and becoming a financially responsible adult.


Cait Klein,
NerdWallet