President’s Message May 2011

Credit Union Board Elections

Every year, credit union members have the opportunity to participate in a distinctive process at the credit union. In connection with each annual meeting, elections are held to select who will serve on the credit union’s 9 member volunteer board. As an owner, each credit union member has the opportunity to read the biographical information of the board candidates selected by the board’s Nominating Committee and then vote for up to three candidates to fill the three open positions.

The Credit Union Difference

This election process is a distinctive opportunity that is unique to not-for-profit credit unions. Customers at other financial institutions don’t have this kind of say in the selection of who serves on the institution’s board of directors. At a credit union, each member is an owner as well as a customer. We encourage each member age 16 and above to participate in this credit union difference. We invite you to read the biographical sketches provided in this newsletter on page 2 and exercise your right to vote for those candidates you feel best meet your expectations. As you can see, the nominating committee has again chosen outstanding board candidates who are successful and involved community and business leaders.

The Board Plays an Important Role

The board is responsible for setting policy and direction for the credit union. A major reason why your credit union is strong and has remained healthy throughout this recession is because of the wise choices made by elected board members who have provided outstanding leadership and guidance and who have focused on the best interest of the credit union and its members. The elected board members serve as volunteers, not paid officials. It is remarkable that such successful people in the community will offer their service and expertise to the credit union members – all without financial remuneration. Such is the credit union spirit and strength!

Making it Easy to Participate

We make it easy for you to vote. After you’ve chosen your candidates you can vote at any of our branch locations from May 9th to May 20th, or online at uccu.com.

Participation is the Key

Of course, you get the most from your credit union membership by participating in the credit union services and products which are designed to help you earn more and pay less for the things you need to reach your financial goals. By participating in the election process you are taking advantage of the opportunity to ensure that the credit union remains strong and will be there for you – and for your children and grandchildren in the years to come.

With You For Life

Thank you for the privilege of serving you and your family! We value and guard the trust you have placed in us to be your financial partner. As your not-for-profit credit union, you are the only reason we exist. Not only do you keep us in business – you are our business. And we never forget that!  Use us for all we’re worth!

Jeff Sermon
President/CEO
Utah Community Credit Union

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May's Member Story

Recently one of our members was in the process of refinancing his home. He contacted me in order to request proof of his IRA account as well as required disclosure documents. I could tell by his tone he was frustrated, and there was a sense of urgency since this paperwork was delaying and potentially prohibiting his home refinance process. Requests like these can take time, and because it was a Monday, I knew the research department, who would have this information, would be busy with their request logs.

I made the request to the research department personally, and they expedited it within an hour. We were able to provide our member with the documents he needed faster than he had expected. Our member was relieved, grateful and was kind enough to send me the following email:

Thanks Amy for your help. This is why I like dealing with credit unions. This request would have taken three months and a court order (hee hee) to get it from a bank.”

It wasn’t until after I helped him get his IRA documents that he learned how to access the same information online, but we understand financial transactions like this can be overwhelming, sometimes the paperwork load is heavy, and usually time matters. A little bit of extra effort on our part, can make a big difference to our members.

Story by: Amy Hall,

Certified IRA Specialist

UCCU Corporate Headquarters

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May’s Member Story

Recently one of our members was in the process of refinancing his home. He contacted me in order to request proof of his IRA account as well as required disclosure documents. I could tell by his tone he was frustrated, and there was a sense of urgency since this paperwork was delaying and potentially prohibiting his home refinance process. Requests like these can take time, and because it was a Monday, I knew the research department, who would have this information, would be busy with their request logs.

I made the request to the research department personally, and they expedited it within an hour. We were able to provide our member with the documents he needed faster than he had expected. Our member was relieved, grateful and was kind enough to send me the following email:

Thanks Amy for your help. This is why I like dealing with credit unions. This request would have taken three months and a court order (hee hee) to get it from a bank.”

It wasn’t until after I helped him get his IRA documents that he learned how to access the same information online, but we understand financial transactions like this can be overwhelming, sometimes the paperwork load is heavy, and usually time matters. A little bit of extra effort on our part, can make a big difference to our members.

Story by: Amy Hall,

Certified IRA Specialist

UCCU Corporate Headquarters

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Security Bulletin: Sony Playstation Network Announces Data Breach

The SONY Corporation announced that 70 million consumers around the world have had personal data compromised in the latest major data-security breach, according to media reports.

As of April 27, 2011, SONY indicates that they have not yet completed a full damage evaluation. They have however indicated that they believe no consumer credit or debit card data was compromised.

Patrick Seybold, senior director of corporate communications for SONY Computer Entertainment America wrote about the breach on the company’s blog:

“Although we are still investigating the details of this incident, we believe that an unauthorized person has obtained the following information that you provided,” wrote Seybold. Information like name, address, country, email address, birth date and game ID and passwords were compromised, he said. “It is also possible that your profile data, including purchase history and billing address…and your PlayStation Network/Qriocity password security answers may have been obtained…. While there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, we cannot rule out the possibility,” he added.

Because they cannot rule out the possibility at this point in time, Sony recommended in an official statement that users place fraud alerts on their credit card accounts through the three major U.S. credit bureaus.

SONY’s online network was launched in the autumn of 2006 and offers games, music and movies to people with PlayStation consoles. As of March 20, 2011 SONY reportedly had 77 million registered users. If you are a registered user and use your Utah Community Credit Union credit or debit card on your SONY Playstation account, please call us and we will replace your card free of charge.Although we are still investigating the details of this incident, we believe that an unauthorized person has obtained the following information that you provided,” wrote Seybold. Information like name, address, country, email address, birth date and game ID and passwords were compromised, he said. “It is also possible that your profile data, including purchase history and billing address…and your PlayStation Network/Qriocity password security answers may have been obtained…. While there is no evidence at this time that credit card data was taken, we cannot rule out the possibility,” he added.

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Ready…start your engine

10 simple ways to preserve the life of your car.

Let’s face it, buying a car is a huge investment. It’s estimated that the average cost of a new car in America today is $28,400. In some parts of the world, that’s enough to buy a house. So how do you make the most of the car you currently have and keep it running for as long as possible? Here are some simple steps to keep your car running and you where you belong:  in the driver’s seat.

Follow the maintenance plan in your owner’s manual.

Your maintenance manual isn’t just there to keep your registration company in your glove compartment. It has valuable information on how to ensure your car’s optimal performance. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and record your repairs and service.

Change your oil.

Oil is the lifeblood of your car and keeps everything running. Yet, many of us fail to think about it. One of the most important things you can do for your car is check your oil regularly. It’s also vital that you change the oil. Experts suggest that you change it every 3,000 miles or three months. Be sure to change your oil filter as well. Your mechanic can let you know when the filter needs changing.

Watch your tires.

Rotate and balance your tires according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Most tires should be balanced and rotated every few thousand miles. Also be sure that they are properly inflated and aligned. Low tire pressure can be dangerous and result in poor gas mileage.

Purchase quality parts.

Car parts and repairs are not cheap. So it’s natural to be tempted to spend less on replacement parts. When it comes to something as important as your car, you need to ensure you’re using quality replacement parts.

Bathe your car regularly.

By doing so, you’ll eliminate rust build up, which can damage your engine. If you live in a cold climate, salt can ruin the body of your car and make it look older than it is. Washing your car regularly, particularly in the winter, is a great way to protect your car.   And there’s nothing like a nice shine to make an old car look new.

Pay attention to your car.

You know your car better than anyone. So if you hear an unusual noise, smell something strange, or experience a bumpy ride, get your car checked immediately. Though it may not be equipped with a state-of-the-art communication system, your car may be trying to tell you that something is wrong.

Give your car a rest.

A great way to ensure your car stays running is to give it a rest. Consider carpooling on occasion or consolidating your errands at one time.

Check fluid levels.

This includes steering, battery, antifreeze, brake, and washer solvent and transmission fluids.

Do your homework. Many cars experience problems when they reach certain mileage levels. The best way to guard against that is to research your make and model on blogs and car websites. They can help you determine what you need to do to avoid problems down the road.

Fix problems as soon as they happen.

It’s easy to ignore a problem or to wait until you have extra money to make the repairs. The fact is, the longer you wait, the more expensive the repairs could be.

By taking these simple steps, you can avoid the hassle and expense of buying a new car and keep your trusted old car where it belongs: on the road.

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Is Your Credit Score Tanking?

Fight back with these tips

Your credit rating is an important part of your overall financial health. Poor credit will turn off lenders when you’re applying for a loan. You might end up paying higher interest rates for mortgages, credit cards, auto loans or other credit instruments. If your score is too low, you might not be able to qualify for a loan.

It’s important to know what your credit score is so that you can begin to improve your situation. Your credit score is also known as your “FICO” score (“FICO” stands for Fair Isaac Corporation). Financial Institutions make credit and loan approval decisions based on your FICO score. A FICO score under 680 makes you a big risk to lenders. Although not difficult, bringing your credit score up will require diligence in order to restore your financial health over the long term.

Tips to fight poor credit scores:

Review your credit report. Obtain a free copy of your credit report from all three major credit-reporting agencies – TransUnion (www.transunion.com), Equifax (www.equifax.com) and Experian (www.experian.com). You’re entitled to one free credit report per year from each agency. For more information on obtaining a free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com. Review the reports and make sure they’re free from errors. If you discover any mistakes, contact the agencies to get the issue(s) resolved. Your credit report may come with a dispute form, or you may need to write a letter. Photocopy your credit report, and provide documentation if you dispute anything.

Pay down credit cards. Paying down your revolving accounts, such as credit cards, will help improve your credit score more than paying off installment loans, such as car loans. The best way to pay down cards is to not pile more debt on top of them. Begin by paying down the highest-interest card first. Once you’ve got that settled, move down to the next highest.

Don’t pay bills late. If you pay bills more than 30 days past their due dates, your credit rating will reflect the late payments for seven years. If you use online banking, request that email alerts be sent to you so you don’t forget to pay a bill.

Don’t max out your cards. It’s preferable to carry smaller balances on several cards rather than max out your credit limits, which can negatively impact your score and make it harder to get more credit. Charging too much on your credit cards can hurt your score, even if you pay off your balances every month. By carrying less than 30% of a credit card’s limit, you can help improve your score.

Review your limits. Contact your lender to make sure your credit card limits are accurate. Your scores might be skewed negatively if your lender is showing a lower limit than you actually have. Ask your credit card issuer to update your account to reflect the proper limit.

Don’t shut down your accounts. Closing your credit card accounts, especially cards you’ve had for many years, can negatively impact your credit score, because the length of your credit history is important to your overall credit score.

Revive your old credit card. If you have an older credit card that you’ve not used in a while, now might be the time to start using it again. A lengthy credit history is considered positive in regard to your credit score. Use your oldest cards several times per year to pay for inexpensive items, and pay them off in full each month.

Beware of transfers and consolidations. As mentioned, it’s better to have several credit cards with smaller balances than a large balance on just one card. Also, applying for a new credit card or loan and transferring balances from a high-limit card to a lower-limit card can hurt your scores.

Remove a late payment. If you’ve had an good overall customer history, a lender may agree to remove a late payment from your credit history. Call them to discuss this possibility, or make a more formal request in writing.

A poor credit score can impact your ability to qualify for credit, but it doesn’t have to last forever. A pattern of improvement is looked upon favorably by most creditors, so starting sooner rather than later is paramount to repairing your credit rating. For more ways on helping you repair your credit score. Visit any of our member service representatives at one of our eighteen convenient UCCU branches or give us a call at 801.223.UCCU (8228).

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Using Your Home Equity Loan for Home Improvements

If you plan to use your home equity to remodel, make sure you read the following:

If you’re like many Americans whose favorite store is either Home Depot or Lowe’s, whose favorite television channel is Home and Garden Television and whose idea of a celebrity is Bob Vila, then you may have caught the home-improvement bug.

Millions of Americans who are cash-strapped and looking to improve either their living space or home’s resale value by adding a state-of-the-art kitchen, luxurious master bathroom or cozy attic loft may want to consider a home equity loan. A home equity loan, which is secured by the equity value in your home, can be useful in financing major expenses such as home repairs and home improvements. If you choose the right home improvement projects, you can increase the value of your home. And, if you finance correctly, the interest you pay on your home equity loan may be tax deductible.

Few expenditures on home improvements are recouped completely, but some remodeling or replacement projects can increase the value of your home by more than 80%, according to the 2010–2011 Cost vs. Value Report published by Remodeling magazine in November 2010. The report looked at the cost of 35 home improvement projects vs. what they were worth when the house was sold. Some of the results are a bit surprising. The homeowner who is looking to sell his or her home in the future may want to take note.

The Numbers

First and foremost, the overall trend shows that replacement projects and small jobs lead the pack. This is good news for homeowners, because some of these projects have less of a cost outlay, yet recoup much of their value. Nine out of the 35 home improvement projects tracked by Remodeling magazine that fared well in retaining their value were exterior improvements, which is no surprise with the housing bubble in recent years. Focusing on the home’s exterior, homeowners are looking to improve their home’s curb appeal, a subjective factor that highly influences potential home buyers.

The home improvement project that received the highest value on return was a replacement steel entry door, which recouped over 102% of its cost nationally. Another exterior project that had strong numbers was a garage door replacement, for which homeowners in many cities received close to 84% of their costs. Siding and window replacements came in at around 72%. Smart Money confirms that green updates also add value to your home. Although installation can be pricey, about 65% to 76% of the cost can be recouped when putting new, energy-efficient windows and doors in your home. Continuing with the outdoor theme, the addition of a wood deck brought homeowners 73% of their cost outlay when they sold their home.

Moving to the interior of the home, a kitchen remodel still remains strong in recouping costs. It is interesting to note that a “minor” kitchen remodel, such as replacing cabinet fronts, adding new hardware, installing energy-efficient appliances, changing laminate countertops, and installing a moderately priced faucet and sink can increase home value around 4% more than can a “major” kitchen remodel, which includes adding a 3×5-foot island, stainless-steel double sink, ventilation system, built-in microwave, garbage disposal, custom lighting and new flooring. A homeowner can expect to recover about 73% of investments with a “minor” kitchen upgrade versus 69% with a “major” kitchen upgrade. Some of the other high-return-on-investment projects include an attic bedroom (72%) and a basement remodel (70%). Bathroom additions and bathroom remodels came in at 53% and 64%, respectively. One additional interesting point that came out of the study is that cost vs. value varies by area of the country. For example, a major kitchen remodel in Los Angeles returned 77% of its cost, whereas the same remodel in Pittsburgh only returned 69%.

Remodeling magazine did not track the increase in value with a pool installation, but Smart Money reports that pools essentially offer no resale value. For one, prospective home buyers are concerned about a pool’s costly maintenance and upkeep. They are also concerned about safety and legal issues, making this home improvement feature less desired by new home buyers. Other home improvements that were low on the cost recoup scale were a sunroom addition (49%), home office addition (46%) and backup power generator (49%).

If some of these figures cause you to develop the home improvement “bug,” then visit one of our eighteen convenient branches today to discuss how a home equity loan can help. UCCU “We are here for you!”

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KSL Editorial – Bank Fee Change a Bad Idea for Consumers

Please note: For a related post on this same topic please click here.

April 10th, 2011 @ 10:14am

By Con Psarras

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s freshman Senator is part of a group asking for a much-needed timeout before a law is implemented that could affect just about everybody who shops with a debit card.

Senator Mike Lee is among the leaders of a move in Congress to derail a last-minute amendment to a series of sweeping financial reforms designed to protect consumers.

The problem is, this particular measure appears to have nothing consumer-friendly about it.

The so-called “Durbin Amendment” to the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act would cap the fees that banks and credit unions charge to process debit card transactions. Bankers say the measure would greatly benefit large retailers who pay the processing fees.

The fees are currently negotiated between banks, retailers and the card issuers, under an extremely complicated set of parameters. By setting a firm cap on fees, banks say they will not be able to afford the costs of processing and insuring debit transactions against fraud. They would be forced, in that case, to increase the fees they charge – quite possibly, for all bank services.

One large bank has already suspended its rewards program for debit card users, directly because of the amendment.

Consumers could lose, or pay more for banking services they currently take for granted. It’s also possible the use of debit cards may eventually be restricted to only certain retail establishments. Consumers would only win if the money retailers save by paying lower processing fees is passed on to their customers in the form of lower prices.

We’re not willing to bet it will be.

The Durbin Amendment was passed with little debate, and it represents the worst kind of government meddling in a marketplace that is not, by any obvious measures, broken.

KSL supports Senator Lee’s efforts to bring this law back to the drawing board for a full and open reckoning on whether it fixes a problem that even exists.

Email: cpsarras@ksl.com

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Recent News Regarding Online Security: Protect Yourself Against ID Theft

Epsilon, a large marketing firm, recently announced that an unauthorized person outside its company accessed files that included e-mail addresses of some of its customers.  Epsilon has indicated that the files that were accessed did not include any customer financial information, but they are actively investigating to confirm this. So far, Citi, Chase, U.S. Bank, Capitol One, Barclays Bank of Delaware, Verizon, Walgreens, Visa, Kroger, Marriott International, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, Brookstone, New York & Co., TiVo, HSN and L.L. Bean are among the confirmed entities to be hit by what some observers say could be one of the biggest data breaches to date.

Although Utah Community Credit Union does not utilize this marketing firm, we felt that it was important to let our members know about this security breach and to remind members that Utah Community Credit Union will never ask for personal information or credentials in an email.

Don’t Respond To Emails Requesting Your Personal Information

Many businesses use email to communicate with customers. Online banking and shopping are safe. But remember that UCCU will never ask you to provide personal information such as account numbers, passwords or your Social Security number via email.

This is important to remember because you may occasionally receive “official looking” emails from people posing as legitimate organizations, asking you for your personal information – this is illegal; it’s called “phishing”.

Don’t fall for scare tactics in emails that threaten things like ‘if you don’t respond immediately, we will close your account’ – if you receive an email that you’re not sure about, forward it to feedback@uccu.com or contact UCCU.

Keep Up-To-Date

You should look at your account details regularly to make sure you don’t have any unauthorized transactions. This can be made easier by using the credit union’s electronic banking technology to monitor your account, like checking your statements and paying bills online, as well as setting up alerts with UCCU’s Text Message Banking or Email Alerts services. These services enable you to receive real-time notification when your balance goes below a predetermined amount or if you have a transaction come out above a certain value. It’s also a good idea to check your credit report annually for any activity you didn’t initiate. For information on how you can obtain a free annual credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com

UCCU is a Leader in Security.

Protecting your privacy, security and personal information is our top priority. Utah Community Credit Union employs best of breed technology with multiple layers of security to protect your information and your finances because we understand the importance of security when managing your finances online. We use the most advanced security methods available to ensure your personal and account information is for your eyes only.

Internally, UCCU has implemented strict policies and procedures to safeguard your personal information and keep it confidential. Remember, if you receive an email or phone call that you’re not sure about, forward the information about it to feedback@uccu.com or contact UCCU.

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Shred Fest 2011

Utah Community Credit Union is partnering with Cintas Document Management to bring “Shred Fest 2011,” where members can bring personal documents to be shredded for free!

UCCU members are encouraged to bring their personal documents to get shredded. Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to protect yourself from ID Theft by safely destroying your personal documents and papers on-site.

Examples of documents that should be shredded include old tax returns, junk mail with personal information, dated documents with personal information, dated pay stubs with personal information, etc. There is a limit of 5 boxes of paper per member. No metal, plastic, cardboard or binders (paper clips and staples are okay).

Due to the demand, Shred-Fest 2011 will be held on two days:

• Sat. April 23rd from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm (OR until the truck is full)

Location:  UCCU’s Riverwoods branch located at 188 West River Park Drive (5200 North) in Provo.

and

• Sat. April 30th from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm (OR until the truck is full)

Location:  UCCU’s Spanish Fork branch located at 810 North Main Street in Spanish Fork

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