Security Bulletin: Card Issuers Warn of Security Breach

March 30, 2012 several news agencies reported a data breach at a payments processing firm that has potentially compromised credit and debit card information for as many as 10 million cardholders, representing cards from all of the major card brands, like Visa and MasterCard.

Card security is a top priority for Utah Community Credit Union. UCCU has extensive safeguards in place to protect members from this type of fraud; and in the event you are a victim, the credit union has quick and efficient processes in place so you can get your money back.

No matter where you shop (even online), you can feel confident using your Utah Community Credit Union Visa® check or credit card because we’re always working to keep you safe – with multiple layers of security.

Security Layers:

Card Data Mismatch

  • Several security values are checked before a transaction is authorized.

Fraud Prevention Tools

  • The 3-Digit Security Code on the back of your card provides Internet and phone security by helping verify that you’re in possession of your card.
  • With Verified by Visa, your identity is confirmed through a personal password while shopping at participating online merchants.

Real-Time Fraud Detection

  • Using best-in-class solutions for Real-Time Fraud Monitoring, we screen your account 24/7 to detect suspicious card activity outside your normal pattern. If something seems abnormal, you will receive a phone call to let you know.

We’ll Fix It

  • Our protection means you don’t pay for unauthorized use of your credit or debit card.
  • Access to Identity Theft Assistance helps you regain control of your account if you suspect you’ve been a victim of card fraud.

There are some steps you can take to help protect yourself as well. Some may seem like common sense, but it’s important to keep them in mind.

General tips on card safety:

  • If your card is ever lost or stolen, report it immediately
  • Don’t leave your card anywhere it could be easily taken (this includes the glove compartment of your car)
  • Monitor your account
  • Keep your account information current so that if there is suspicious activity we can contact you.
  • Make sure you memorize your PIN
  • Shred documents that contain any personal or financial information before you dispose of them
  • Before shopping online, ensure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus and spyware software installed

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 us.

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 checking your statements and paying bills online. 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 card security. By keeping these simple tips in mind, you can help us keep your card safe – at the store, online or anywhere else.

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Security Bulletin: Card Issuers Warn of Security Breach

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Teens and Money: Preparing for Future Expenses

You may feel emotionally ready to move out on your own, but are you financially prepared? Living independently means much more than not having to be home by curfew; it comes with a great deal of financial responsibilities. Before you take the leap, know how much the big move will cost you, now and in the future.

Moving out

There are many costs to prepare for just to walk in the door of your first home. You may need to save for at least a few of these big ticket items:

  • Moving expenses. If your friends will not do it for the price of a couple of pizzas, you may be looking at hiring some help and renting a moving van.
  • Rent for the first and last month. Paying two months rent protects the landlord financially (in case you move out on a moments notice) but it can be quite a lot of money for a first-time renter to come up with.
  • Security deposit. Most landlords require a security deposit, which is held as protection against damages to the premises or unpaid rent.
  • Cleaning deposit. Yet another cash sum a landlord is likely to want is a cleaning deposit. This is held in the event the residence needs some extra scrubbing after you move out. If you have a pet, expect the cleaning deposit to be even higher.
  • Utilities and telephone deposit. Before you ever turn on the heat or make a phone call, you may have to put down some money to activate these necessities.
  • Furniture and appliances. Most rentals do not come furnished. Depending on the room, you may have to buy a few key items to be somewhat comfortable:
  • Bedroom – bed, mattress, linens, pillows, dresser, rugs, lamps
  • Living room – sofa, chairs, coffee table, television, DVD player, stereo, lamps, rugs, pictures
  • Kitchen – table, utensils, dishes, cookware, microwave, cleaning supplies
  • Bathroom – hair dryer, shower curtain, bath mat

Of course if you will have roommates, you will be sharing at least some of these costs. But even with a quick estimation you can see that you may need to save quite a lot to leave home.

Monthly bills

Once you are in your own place, the costs continue. It is extremely important to pay all bills on time. If you do not, you will probably be charged late payment fees, and if left unpaid, they will go into a collection agency. Dealing with collectors is not only highly unpleasant, but the negative effect on your credit report is severe. And if you default on some, such as telephone and other utilities, you may not be able to turn them on again until they are paid (and even then it can be difficult).

If you are sharing your home with roommates, establish how the bills will be paid from the beginning. You may be able to split some and each send a check for your portion of the amount due. Another option is for one of you to act as money manager and collect from the others. However you arrange it, if the accounts are in your name, know that you are responsible for sending the complete payment in on time.

  • Rent: If the rent is due by the first, do not pay on the fifth or some other late date. Think ahead. It is highly unlikely that you will remain forever in the first place you get, so being a good tenant today will help you rent another place in the future. The last thing you want is to establish a bad relationship with your landlord – the very person you will turn to for a glowing rental history reference.
  • Utilities: Utilities include cable, Internet access, garbage, gas, electric, and water. You will soon understand why your parents were always telling you to turn the lights off when you leave the room.
  • Telephone: Whether you have a landline, cell phone, or both, know that all that chatting can cost you – big, big money. Be especially careful with cell phone minutes. Once you have exceeded your plan’s limit, the cost per minute can be outrageous. Bills of many hundreds of dollars are common.

Moving out and living independently for the first time can be a thrilling experience. You can make it even better by being financially prepared and responsible from the beginning.

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Stocks or Bonds?

What you need to know about choosing

If you have thought about or spent any time investing, you probably know there are lots of choices to make. One of the most common choices involves choosing investment vehicles, or – more specifically – choosing between stocks and bonds. How do you know which is the best choice for you? Do you even have to choose? Of course, the best way to make a decision is to review your unique situation, such as your investment objectives, time horizon and risk tolerance. Then arm yourself with knowledge to choose the option that best matches your objectives.

Taking stock of ownership in a company

Before you begin buying up shares of stocks, it is important to understand what stocks are and how they work. In essence, stocks are investments you make in individual companies; they represent your shares of ownership. Stocks allow companies to raise the money they need to operate and grow, and they offer investors the opportunity to make returns on the money those investors provided to the companies through their stock purchases.

The greatest downside of investing in stocks is that they are riskier than other investments. They do, however, offer many benefits that could offset that risk, including:

  • Potentially greater returns. Historically, stocks have proven to be solid long-term investments.
  • Voting rights. Your ownership in a company gives you the ability to vote your shares and elect directors who may impact the financial health of the company.
  • Additional income potential. Though companies are not required to pay dividends to stockholders, many companies do.

Understanding bonds

If the risk of stocks concerns you, you may want to consider investing in bonds. A bond is a security issued by an authorized entity, promising to repay a borrowed amount of money under a set interest rate on a given, or “maturity,” date. Bonds are generally issued by the United States government, state and local governments, and corporations.

Though they do not get the press of stocks, bonds also offer some great benefits, including:

  • Lower risk. One of the biggest benefits of bonds is that they tend to be less volatile than stocks.
  • Income. Most bonds offer income on a regular basis.

Keep in mind, however, that bonds are not risk free, as some are issued by companies and entities that may be unable to pay back the money you invested.

Unlike stocks, which may require little initial investment (depending on the stock), bonds are generally purchased in amounts of $1,000.

So it all boils down to whether you are willing to take on additional risk. If you are younger and looking for a long-term investment, stocks might be the best choice for you. If however, you seek less risk and want income or asset protection, you may elect to invest in bonds.

Keep in mind that the most successful portfolios are the ones that are diversified, with a mix of investment classes and vehicles. For this reason, mutual funds, which invest in both stocks and bonds, might be a good choice.

Of course, the best way to determine your options is to sit down with one of our a licensed UCCU professionals who can review your situation and goals and construct a portfolio that matches your needs. Contact us at (801) 223-UCCU (8228) for more information on finding a UCCU Investment Service Representative that can help you.

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President’s Message March 2012

How can low lending rates make you into a saver?

One of the results of the slow economy is the low interest rates. For savers, this low rate environment means smaller earnings. For those whose retirement plans including living off the interest paid on savings accounts and IRA’s the low rates have not been a positive thing. The credit union keeps savings rates as high as the market allows, but we recognize that savings rates are at an historic low. It appears that savings rates will remain low for many months to come as the economy continues its slow recovery.

For borrowers, the low rates are a positive. For those members, the silver lining to the recession is that loan rates have not been lower for decades! Many members are taking advantage of these low rates to purchase automobiles, homes, and other needed items. Construction, home equity, and mortgage rates are at historic lows. Many members find that they can save a lot of money in interest costs by refinancing existing debt to lower rate credit union loans. Some members refinance to save on monthly payments. Saving money on borrowing costs is one way good way to save money during these times.

Like many Americans, UCCU members are paying down debt or as economists say, “deleveraging”. Reducing outstanding debt is a good way help cut costs and get through this recession. It also helps us all protect our home and estate from the pressures and threat of the continuing recession and high unemployment. Carrying as little debt as possible not only makes sense in a recession – it is also a wise approach in great economic times.

What if the only debt you have is your home? Can the credit union help you save money?

If you have been in your home for a while and owe less than the value of the home, you might be able to join the many credit union members who become savers by refinancing your mortgage and taking advantage of the record low mortgage rates. The credit union has refinanced thousands of members’ homes, helping them save thousands of dollars in interest.

What if you do not owe very much on your home? Do the costs of refinancing outweigh the lower rate?

Here is where UCCU can REALLY help you!!

Take advantage of our 7 or 10 year no-fee, super low rate mortgage refinance program! Many members have cut their mortgage rates by half – and without paying any fees. These popular mortgages are kept at the credit union and are not sold off into the secondary market – so you can make your payments directly to the credit union – and save thousands of dollars in interest! These loans have no prepayment penalty. Call us at 801.223.UCCU (8228) or visit us online to see how easy this refinance process can be.  Rates are at an all time low! We invite you to visit our webpage daily to check for current rates.

At UCCU, we believe that if you can be earning what you would like to on your savings, you ought to at least be saving all you can on loan rates. As the economy finally recovers and rates do start to rise, you will feel especially smart having locked in an amazingly low rate on your mortgage at UCCU.

UCCU – inspiring smart decisions.

Jeff Sermon

President/CEO

Utah Community Credit Union

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Financial Checklist Before Starting A Family

With all the anticipation and joy that comes with starting a family, having children also marks one of the most significant financial changes in parents’ lives. And in today’s world, added financial challenges—an uncertain economy, high unemployment, less job stability and more onus on the individual to save for retirement and cover healthcare costs—make careful planning essential.

“There are additional stressors that add a level of complexity to beginning a family,” says Linda Descano, the chief executive and president of Citi‘s Women & Co. “You have to create your own safety net today.”

According to a recent report by online parenting network BabyCenter, the average cost of raising a child in the U.S. is $227,000 each—and that excludes college tuition. In a survey, 61% of moms said they worried about having enough money to raise their kids, and two-thirds said that paying for school and college was their top financial concern, followed by housing and then childcare.

To ensure that you are prepared, ask yourself the following 10 questions before starting a family.

1. Can you afford big-ticket baby proofing?

Before you have the baby, Descano advises taking stock of the big-ticket purchases you may need to plan in advance. Is your 1996 Ford junker safe enough for prized cargo, or will you need to upgrade your car? Do you have space in your home for a nursery, and will you need to renovate a room or move? Add up the big baby-proofing costs, and create a plan to tackle them.

2. Have you budgeted the uptick in regular expenses?

With a new mouth to feed make sure you are ready for all the little costs that quickly add up. Consider the diapers, bottles, formulas and clothes—and laundry detergent—that your newest addition requires. Will you have enough income to cushion the extra spending? You may want to check in with family members who could share some supplies. And Descano cautions: Stick to a budget. You will want to splurge on every sweet jumpsuit and teddy bear, but do not charge up your credit card.

3. Is a warehouse-club membership right for you?

Consider buying necessities in bulk at a warehouse club like Sam’s, Costco or BJ‘s Warehouse. “You have to be careful not to overbuy,” Descano warns, “but with the right planning, you can stock up on the items you use and rely on the most, saving time and money.”

4. Will your health insurance meet your new needs?

Your health insurance might have sufficed before, but will it meet the needs of your new family? Now is the time to review policies and benefits to understand your options. Ask yourself whether your current plan covers both parents and children’s needs completely and economically.

5. How will you manage childcare costs?

According to BabyCenter, a family’s average child-care costs are $755 a month, which amounts to almost 20% of the average monthly household income. Descano suggests researching all of your possibilities and crunching the numbers to make an informed decision. Look into an employer daycare or discount, private daycare, a nanny, nanny-sharing between families, a spouse at home or enlisting the help of a family member.

6. Have you researched parental leave options?

It is important for Mom and Dad to find out what kind of parental leave options are available from their employers, including how much time is offered and how much time is paid. Then consider, “What can you afford to take? What does it mean to your income,” Descano asks, “and how can you ramp up savings beforehand?” You may have to reallocate spending or make tough choices about when to return to work.

7. Might you benefit from government programs?

Descano also advises speaking with your accountant, financial advisor or the IRS about your eligibility for government programs designed to offset the costs of a growing family. Ask about tax awards like the Dependent Care Tax Credit and pre-tax options like a flexible spending account, which would set aside money from your paycheck to cover childcare expenses.

8. Are all family documents updated?

A change in family headcount calls for a review of life insurance policies, wills (including guardianship) and retirement plans, says Descano. More importantly, if you have not set these items up yet, now is the time. You should make every effort to protect your child in case something happens to you.

9. Have you reviewed long-term savings goals?

Do not be one of the 61% of moms worried about paying a child’s tuition costs. Consider your priorities and plan ahead, says Descano. Is private schooling important to you? You may want to downsize your home or car payments. Do you plan on having multiple children? You may want to start putting money aside now for a bigger house or in college funds, if you plan on contributing. “Put aside what you can,” Descano advises. “It is really about continuing to build savings.”

10. Do you have a plan for paying down debt?

Before the baby arrives, you will want to take a good inventory of all your debts, paying particular attention to credit card debt. Try to pay it down early, so if a true emergency comes up you will be ready to take on a necessary debt burden. Starting with a clean financial slate will put your new family on the road to a happy, healthy and rich future ahead.

By:Jenna Goudreau, Forbes Staff

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Keeping Up With The Jones’ Property

Ideas for keeping your home value high.

It is no secret that a home is one of the biggest investments you will make in your lifetime. One of the best ways to preserve or even increase the value of your investment is to keep your home in great shape. While most of us would like to make major improvements such as a new kitchen with the latest appliances or a bathroom equipped with a fancy hot tub, that is not always financially possible. However, you might be surprised to learn that some simple and inexpensive improvements can go a long way in increasing the value of your home.

Here are some of the things you can do:

Landscape. One of the easiest ways to improve your home is to spruce up your yard. Rake leaves, cut the lawn, remove weeds, prune trees, and mulch flowerbeds. Planting flowers can also be a great way to increase curb appeal and the value of your home should you sell it someday.

Give it a fresh coat of paint, inside and out. Nothing makes a home look more unkempt than peeling paint. If you can afford a professional painter, great. If not, consider holding a painting party with some of your closest friends. Reward them for their work with pizza and drinks.

Put up new window treatments. Nothing warms a house like curtains and blinds. Make sure yours are clean and attractive.

Make minor repairs. Do you have a leaky faucet or loose doorknobs? Repair them. Small things such as this can make a house seem worn or tired.

Improve your kitchen and baths. Your kitchen and bathroom(s) are the most important rooms in your home. If you have old-fashioned cabinets and do not have the money to replace them, consider having them refaced—replacing just the front of your cabinets. You will save considerably and will make your kitchen appear new. To give your bathroom a nice appearance, re-grout the tile. It is an easy process and will make your bathroom look new.

Replace worn carpeting. Worn or dirty carpet can make even a newer home look old. If you cannot afford to replace carpeting, arrange to have it cleaned. If you have hardwoods underneath your carpeting, consider removing the carpet altogether, and showing those beautiful floors off.

If you want to learn more about ways to improve your home, consider taking a class at a national home improvement store. There are a variety of courses open to the public, including painting, wallpapering and installing tile. The more things you can fix yourself, the more money you will save. Plus, you will have a whole new appreciation for your home, knowing you worked so hard to improve it.

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