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The Benefits of Using Your Tax Refund as a Car Down Payment

Authored By: Financial Access FCU on 2/25/2021

white car with person hold out cash

The Benefits of Using Your Tax Refund as a Car Down Payment

It’s always a good plan to set some money aside to use as a down payment when financing a new or “new to you” car. As a general rule, you’ll want to pay 20 percent of the vehicle’s value as a down payment for a new car and 10 percent as a down payment for a used vehicle. This makes tax season an excellent time to shop for a car and use your tax refund as part of your down payment.

Below, you’ll find five reasons using your tax refund as a down payment works in your favor.

1. Your Down Payment Helps Reduce Your Monthly Payments

The more money you put toward a down payment for your car, the lower your monthly payments will become. To illustrate how a larger down payment works in your favor, review the following example.

Assume you plan to purchase a vehicle for $25,000 and finance it for 60 months at 3% APR.

Down Payment

Monthly Payment

Interest Saved










As you can see, larger down payments result in lower monthly payments. If you chose to put $5,000 down on your new car, your monthly payments would be $89.85 lower than if you put nothing down.

2. You Pay Less Interest on Your Vehicle

Continuing from the example above, you’ll notice that in addition to lower monthly payments, you’ll also pay less interest. Over the course of the 60-month term, you’d save $195.31 if you put 10 percent down or $390.61 with a 20 percent down payment.

3. You Build Equity in Your Vehicle

If you haven’t heard of depreciation just yet, it’s a word you’ll get to know in relation to cars. Vehicles depreciate remarkably fast. In fact, new cars lose approximately 20 to 25 percent of their value within the first year. Your down payment helps you build equity in your vehicle immediately, which is invaluable when the time comes to trade your car in.

4. Helps You Stay Above Water

When you are “underwater” on your car loan, it means you have negative equity. In other words, you owe more on the vehicle than its current value. Your down payment can help you avoid this situation by reducing the effect of depreciation on your car’s value.

For instance, if you're in an accident and your vehicle is totaled, the insurance company will pay you based on the value of the car – not how much you owe on the vehicle. That will leave you paying the balance out of pocket while shopping around for a new car. Your down payment can reduce the sting of depreciation by decreasing the amount of money you have to pay out should this situation occur.

5. It’s Easier to Get Approved for a Loan

Many lenders like to feel as though you have some “skin in the game” before extending credit. This is especially the case if you don’t have a long and strong credit history just yet. A substantial down payment shows them you’re serious about repaying your loan and makes lenders more likely to grant you approval for the loan.

We’re Here to Help!

Navigating your way through the car-buying process isn’t always as simple as finding the perfect vehicle. There are many financial considerations to understand and decisions to make along the way.

As your credit union, we’re here to help you make the smartest financial choices – and buying a car is no different. Our team will show you how various financing options impact your budget, monthly payments, and overall financial future.

If you’re ready to buy a vehicle,  get pre-approved today. Apply here.


Each individual’s financial situation is unique and readers are encouraged to contact the Credit Union when seeking financial advice on the products and services discussed. This article is for educational purposes only; the authors assume no legal responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the contents.

Quick Tips to Increase Your Savings

Authored By: Financial Access FCU on 10/15/2020

note pad that says "money saving tips"

One of the most important things you can do to boost your savings and get your monthly spending under control is to trim the fat from your existing budget. Once you’ve explored the obvious choices, like planning and preparing meals at home and cutting out the daily coffee run, it’s time to explore deeper cuts you can make that might offer a lasting impact on your efforts to save. Here are a few key avenues to explore.

  • Water Bill. Check your water bill and look for red flags or signs that all might not be right. Something as simple as repairing a broken sprinkler head or constantly running toilet could save you significant money each month.


  • Electric Bill. Ask your energy provider to conduct an energy audit to point out ways you can save each month on your electric bill. Most electric companies perform these audits at no cost. You can also research changing your air conditioner settings or switching to more energy-efficient light bulbs.


  • Cable Bill. Many consumers are considering “cutting the cord” and going digital for their entertainment needs with so many qualify streaming services available. If that isn’t an ideal option for you, explore local deals that bundle your cable television and internet services.


  • Recurring Subscriptions. From digital subscriptions to magazines, cosmetics, skincare, crafts, clothing, meals, and more, there’s a subscription for everything these days — and each one costs money. Chances are you’re still paying for subscriptions you’ve forgotten about, such as gym memberships, podcast subscriptions, etc. These are often automatically withdrawn from your account and can add up fast. Go through your monthly statements to make sure you’re only paying for subscriptions you want and actively use.


  • Mobile Phone. Much has changed in the last five years regarding mobile plans. It’s worth reviewing your current plan and analyzing how much data you actually use. With so many places offering free Wi-Fi and people spending more time at home, you may no longer need massive amounts of data and can reduce costs substantially by altering your plan.


  • Insurance. Whether it’s homeowner’s, auto, or renter’s insurance, another way to save money is to re-examine your insurance coverage and costs. Do this at least once a year by getting three separate insurance quotes and comparing them. You can use this same approach for your health insurance as well. This simple act might save you hundreds of dollars while providing comparable coverage and protection.


  • Refinance Loans. With interest rates at historic lows, now is the best time to consider refinancing your loans. Not only can you take advantage of lower rates, but you can also adjust your loan terms to fit your budget better. This could help you significantly reduce your monthly expenses, leaving more money to funnel into savings.


We’re Here to Help!

Little tweaks in your spending can lead to more significant savings down the road. If you’re interested in exploring additional options, such as a savings account with automatic transfers or refinancing your loans to save on your monthly payments, we’re here to help. 


Each individual’s financial situation is unique and readers are encouraged to contact the Credit Union when seeking financial advice on the products and services discussed. This article is for educational purposes only; the authors assume no legal responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the contents.

Managing Your Finances During COVID-19

Authored By: Financial Access FCU on 3/25/2020

Managing Finances During COVID-19

Times are unsettling for millions of Americans facing reduced hours, changing work functions, and uncertain financial days ahead. With COVID-19 spreading, it’s more important than ever for you to take the reins over your finances and manage them carefully to make your money work for you despite the uncertainty all around. These key ideas can help.

Assess Your Current Financial Situation

The more facts you have at your disposal about your current financial situation, the better position you are in to craft a plan that works for you and your family moving forward.

If you are off work due to COVID-19, as many people are, talk to your employer about pay. For instance, does your employer intend to pay you, in some capacity, during this downtime? If so, how much? If not, will you qualify for unemployment benefits?

In addition to learning about your compensation from your employer, review your regular expenses, account balances, and upcoming bills along with your current savings. Now may very well be the rainy day you’ve been saving for. If you do not have a household budget, now is the time to create one to work within the weeks and months ahead. Financial Access Federal Credit Union's CreditConnectNow can help you get started. 


CreditConnectNow was developed to help you gain financial freedom but now more than ever it can help you during this pandemic!

Here our members can enjoy the following benefits:

  • Access to your daily updated credit score, credit offers, and financial tips through the Credit Score product.
  • Access to a complete financial checkup developed exclusively for Financial Access members. This will include assistance in developing a spending plan and a comprehensive personal financial analysis.
  • Access to specialized credit improvement content including podcasts and videos developed exclusively for credit union members by the President of Financial Access Federal Credit Union.
  • Improve their understanding of credit related matters through access to the BALANCE Financial Wellness Center.
  • Access to valuable interactive credit and financial wellness information through our Credit and Financial Blog.
  • Access to FREE financial counseling provided for all credit union members. 

Focus on Essential Expenses

Much of the uncertainty related to COVID-19 is the fact that you don’t have all the information — no one does. No one knows how long the outbreak will last, the impact it will have on the world, or what it will mean for your workplace moving forward. During this time, it’s wise to focus your spending on essentials only.

Begin this process by identifying which expenses are essential, such as mortgage or rent, food, utilities, medical expenses, etc. and which are non-essential expenses. Identifying non-essential expenses means pinpointing areas where you can cut costs.

First, and most importantly, resist the temptation to shop online out of boredom or depression. These activities can be destructive to your budget. Second, begin looking for other ways to cut expenses. Subscription services, which can add up quickly, are a great starting point. However, also consider expenses you likely will not utilize soon, such as gym memberships, amusement park annual passes, and other entertainment expenses.

There are areas where you can cut back on expenses even at the grocery store – at least once the initial panic buying ends. For instance, think of buying food in bulk or larger quantities to not only save money but to save trips to the grocery store. Many libraries, schools, and other companies are stepping up and offering free streaming services to keep young children entertained during this trying time. Take advantage of available free services.

Consider Short-Term Loans vs. Credit Cards

Finally, your credit union remains dedicated to helping the community grow — particularly in trying times such as these. A short-term, personal loan from the credit union is a great option to help you get through, rather than using traditional credit cards that offer revolving credit at alarmingly high-interest rates.

Short-term loans, such as personal loans, have set payment terms and are easier to repay than credit cards and payday loans. Not only will you pay less interest, but you’re likely to repay the debt much faster than with credit cards, too.

We’re Here to Help!

With all the uncertainty related to COVID-19 and what it means for the world’s economy, you may have anxiety on many fronts, including your finances. We know we can’t fix the world’s economy, but we may be able to help you better manage your finances during the weeks and months ahead.

Give us a call to learn about the relief services we’re offering that may help you weather the impacts of this financial storm.


Each individual’s financial situation is unique and readers are encouraged to contact the Credit Union when seeking financial advice on the products and services discussed. This article is for educational purposes only; the authors assume no legal responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the contents.

Protecting your Identity - Reminders from your Credit Union

Authored By: Financial Access FCU on 7/31/2019

Protecting Your Identity

Financial Access Federal Credit Union wants to remind you that although data breaches, like Capital One’s, may be out of your control here are some points you can do as a cardholder to avoid compromising your personal information:

•A text alert from us warning of suspicious activity on your card will NEVER include a link to be clicked. Never click on a link in a text message that is supposedly from us. A valid notification will provide information about the suspect transaction and ask the cardholder to reply to the text message with answers such as ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘help’, or ‘stop’. It will never include a link. Not set up for text alerts on your FAFCU Visa Debit card yet? It’s simple to set up. Click here for more information.

• A text alert from us will always be from a 5-digit number and NOT a 10-digit number resembling a phone number

• A phone call from our institution’s automated dialer will only include a request for your zip code, and no other personal information, unless you confirm that a transaction is fraudulent. Only then will you be transferred to an agent who will ask questions to confirm that you are the actual cardholder before going through your transactions with you. If at any point you are uncertain about questions being asked or the call itself, hang up and call us directly. If a call is received by the cardholder, claiming to be our call center and asking to verify transactions, no information should have to be provided by the cardholder other than their zip code, and a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the transaction provided.

• We will NEVER ask you for your PIN or the 3-digit security code on the back of your card. Don’t give them out to anyone, no matter what they say. Hang up and call us directly. Fraudsters will often ask cardholders to verify fake transactions. When the cardholder says no, they did not perform those transactions, the fraudster then says that their card will be blocked, a new card will be issued, and that they need the card’s PIN to put it on the new card. Many people believe this and provide their PIN. The 3-digit CV2 code on the back of the card will allow a fraudster to conduct card-not-present transactions.

• Regularly check your account online to see if there are any suspicious transactions that have occurred, but especially if you are unsure about a call or text message you’ve received. If anything looks amiss, call us directly for assistance.

• If you have received a voice- or a text message from us and are unsure about responding to it, call us directly for assistance at 941-748-7704.

• Consider signing up for Credit Score, our free credit monitoring system. You can set up alerts to be sent directly to you when there is a change on your credit bureau. For more information on Credit Score click here.

DIVORCE – A Rough Time

Authored By: Raymond James® on 6/27/2019


Divorce is an emotional and financial time of stress. In a divorce case, the parties should be thinking at least of P.E.A.C.E. This acronym outlines some areas that should be addressed by agreement or litigation. The following is a brief discussion of a very complex topic. Parenting plan and child support. The parenting plan tries to lay out a plan of action for a child and their support for future years.
Equitable distribution. Equitable does not necessarily mean equal. You will get what you and your spouse agree to. If you can’t agree, attorneys may be called upon to represent each party and arrive at a plan. The plan is given to a judge in court for dissolution of the marriage.
Alimony. Alimony is the payment by one spouse to the other following a divorce. Factors include the standard of living, age, physical condition, earning abilities today and tomorrow, the contribution of each part to the marriage, inflation, etc. There are many factors to consider.
Contesting. Divorce can range from a relatively simple splitting of the marital assets to great disagreement. This may require each spouse to be represented by an attorney to finally arrive at a plan that may or may not be acceptable by each spouse. However, the plan is needed to give it to a judge.
Everything Else. Each party has different priorities and concerns in a divorce. There are many factors to consider. Knowledgeable people on your side can be comforting during this emotional and challenging time.
The following is a simplistic summary about the divorce process. It tries to indicate the flow from simple to complex.
1. Collaborative. The spouses decide how they want to divide their property, assets, etc. The spouses write the plan given to a judge who dissolves the marriage. One of the spouses can work with an attorney who will write the plan for review by the other spouse. If acceptable to both spouses, the attorney can deliver the plan to a judge.
2. Mediation + attorney. The spouses discuss with a mediator who helps them arrive at a plan to divide their property. The attorney usually presents the plan to the judge.
3. Two attorneys. Each spouse hires their own attorney. The attorneys representing their clients arrive at a plan to divide their property. Both attorneys usually present the plan to the judge.
Generally speaking, you should have a team on your side and consult with them even if you are thinking about divorce. They could be some of the following members of your team.
ATTORNEY: It is wise to hire an attorney. Divorce is a complicated legal process and you want
someone to legally represent your interests.
ACCOUNTANT: There are many items for review. They include stocks, bonds, 401(k), pension plans,
homes, insurance, etc. These items frequently involve taxation, gains and losses, determining the new
cost basis, and other tax matters. It is wise to hire an accountant, CPA, or Enrolled Agent to handle these
tax matters. Failure to do so could result in an IRS audit.
FINANCIAL PLANNER: The paperwork of splitting up stocks and other financial matters are handled by
a Financial Planner. The Planner follows the instructions for division as detailed in the court-ordered
plan. The plan often requires setting up accounts. There may be accounts for a 529 College Savings
Plan for the kids. Life insurance or other similar investments may be used in case one of the spouses
dies prematurely. An annuity could help ensure that the promised alimony, child support, and other
payments are made.
Divorce is rarely a fun time. With helpful friends and your team in place, you will get through it.
Jim Zientara is a Financial Planner with Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC.
Investment Advisory Services are offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc. He
can be reached at 941-750-6818 or at with an office at 11009
Gatewood Drive, Suite 101, Lakewood Ranch, FL 34211. Any opinions are those of Jim Zientara and not
necessarily those of Raymond James.
This material is being provided for information purposes only, and is not a complete description, nor is it
specific investment advice. Consult a financial advisor about your unique situation. Raymond James
Financial Services and its advisors do not provide advice on tax or legal issues. These matters should be
discussed with a tax or legal professional.

Don’t make these 5 mistakes with your pension plan

Authored By: Raymond James® on 6/14/2019

Pension mistakes

Don’t make these 5 mistakes with your pension plan

Let us guide you through your transition to retirement

Happily ever after is only the beginning.

Retirement isn’t what it used to be. It’s longer. It’s more active. And it’s harder to predict.

Many of today’s retirees can expect to spend 30 years or more enjoying the fruits of their labor. That’s why it’s increasingly important not simply to plan for retirement, but to plan for longevity in retirement – all of the years it might last, all of the ways your life will change and all of the events you can’t foresee.

Retirement planning is hard enough. Make sure you don’t make these 5 mistakes with your pension plan.

  1. Giving up control of your money

If you pick any of the pension payout methods offered by the pension plan, you are guaranteeing two things. The first is an income stream for your life, and the second is that you are giving up control of those assets forever.

Another alternative option available to you, would be to roll the pension lump sum benefit into an IRA without tax penalty, and invest the benefit assets. This could provide the same income stream and allow you to keep control of your money at the same time. You decide what to take out and when to take it. You also control where your money goes if you die.

  1. Making the wrong benefit election

If you didn’t roll your pension benefit to an IRA, you had to choose an income benefit election. Once you choose, there is no going back. So be certain you understand the choices before you make an election. Many people simply pick the highest monthly payout, but if something happens to them, their spouse is left with nothing. Do you know the difference between Single Life Annuity, Joint & Survivor Pop-up Annuity and Period Certain & Life Annuity?

  1. Leaving your loved one’s empty handed

If you pick Single Life Annuity as your monthly benefit, you will receive the highest monthly payout from the pension plan. But when you die, the pension plan keeps all the money they haven’t paid out to you. That’s a risky plan, even if you aren’t married or have children. Picture this scenario, you’ve worked your whole life to finally be able to retire and live out your days doing what you want. Sadly, you get hit by a car and die just two months after you retire. The pension plan paid out roughly $2-3 thousand dollars in benefits to you, and now they get to keep the Lump Sum benefit of hundreds of thousands. Wouldn’t you rather that money go to a relative or charitable cause of your choosing?

  1. No safety net

If you don’t roll your benefit over to an IRA, your choosing to receive a check a month from the pension plan. That means you won’t ever be able to get any extra money out for an emergency. If you want to start a business, get a motorcycle, or even if you have a medical emergency, you better have a back-up plan! The pension won’t allow for additional withdrawals outside of the monthly payment. If you roll your lump sum to an IRA, you have the freedom to withdrawal as much as you want at any time. *There are some limitations to this.

  1. Purchasing power risk

Increases in the cost of living, can erode the value of your retirement resources and what you can buy with that money. If you have a pension benefit of $1,500/month and your monthly expenses are $900/month you are doing well. Fast forward 15 years, your pension is still paying $1,500/month, but now your expenses are $1,400/month. There’s not much wiggle room, and if you plan to live another 10 years, things could get dicey. If you roll your lump sum to an IRA, you can invest your assets to grow, and hopefully keep up with inflation.

Stop by and talk with our Raymond James Financial Planners today.

Jim Zientara and Jeff Zientara have been helping employees retire from the plant since 1993. They will work on your behalf to get you what you deserve. 
11009 Gatewood Drive, Suite 101 Lakewood Ranch, FL 34211 // (941) 750-6818 //

Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC and are not insured by credit union insurance, the NCUA or any other government agency, are not deposits or obligations of the credit union, are not guaranteed by the credit union, and are subject to risks, including the possibility of loss of principal. Investment Advisory Services are offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc.

Financial Access Federal Credit Union is not a registered broker/dealer and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services.

Investing involves risk, including loss. There is no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful. Asset allocation and diversification does not ensure a profit or protect against a loss. Any charts and tables presented herein are for illustrative purposes only and should not be considered as the sole basis for an investment decision. There can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment or investment strategy made reference to be profitable or equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s). This information should not be construed as a recommendation.

A fixed annuity is a long-term, tax-deferred insurance contract designed for retirement. It allows you to create a fixed stream of income through a process called annuitization and also provides a fixed rate of return based on the terms of the contract. Fixed annuities have limitations. If you decide to take your money out early, you may face fees called surrender charges. Plus, if you're not yet 59½, you may also have to pay an additional 10% tax penalty on top of ordinary income taxes. You should also know that a fixed annuity contains guarantees and protections that are subject to the issuing insurance company's ability to pay for them.

'Withdrawal of pre-tax contributions and/or earnings will be subject to ordinary income tax and, if taken prior to age 59 1/2, may be subject to a 10% federal tax penalty.

Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. RMD's are generally subject to federal income tax and may be subject to state taxes. Consult your tax advisor to assess your situation.

If you've changed jobs or are retiring, rolling over your retirement assets to an IRA can be an excellent solution. It is a non-taxable event when done properly - and gives you access to a wide range of investments and the convenience of having consolidated your savings in a single location. In addition, flexible beneficiary designations may allow for the continued tax-deferred investing of inherited IRA assets. In addition to rolling over your 401(k) to an IRA, there are other options. Here is a brief look at all your options. For additional information and what is suitable for your particular situation, please consult us. 1. - Leave money in your former employer's plan, if permitted. // Pro: May like the investments offered in the plan and may not have a fee for leaving it in the plan. Not a taxable event. 2. Roll over the assets to your new employer's plan, if one is available and it is permitted. // Pro: Keeping it all together and larger sum of money working for you, not a taxable event. Con: Not all employer plans accept rollovers. 3. Rollover to an IRA // Pro: Likely more investment options, not a taxable event, consolidating accounts and locations. Con: usually fee involved, potential termination fees. 4. Cash out the account // Con: A taxable event, loss of investing potential. Costly for young individuals under 59 ½; there is a penalty of 10% in addition to income taxes. Be sure to consider all of your available options and the applicable fees and features of each option before moving your retirement assets.

Better Budgeting in 3 Steps

Authored By: Greenpath on 4/5/2017

Better Budgeting in 3 Steps

Better Budgeting in 3 Steps

Whichever method or tools you use, the three steps to develop a monthly budget are always the same. 

Step 1 - Determine Monthly Income.  Your first budgeting step is to determine your monthly income. When they think about income, most people think of what they earn from their job. However, it is important to include all sources of income.  For example, if you earn regular money babysitting for a relative or receive child support, it should all be included in your budget. Use net income, which is the amount of money you receive after taxes and other deductions (health and life insurance, 401k contributions, etc.) After you become comfortable managing your money on a monthly basis, you may want to consider a six-month plan and, eventually, work up to a yearly budget. 

Step 2 - Identify High-Priority Bills.  Your next budgeting step is to determine your high-priority bills. Examples include a mortgage or rent payment, basic utilities, auto payment, and insurance premiums. These payments are generally fixed, and you are expected to pay them every month. Some bills, such as insurance, are paid periodically. For this type of bill, budget by dividing the amount of the expense over the appropriate number of months (i.e. a quarterly payment would be divided over 3 months).

Step 3 - Estimate Other Expenses.  After subtracting the priority bills from your net income, you will ideally still have money left for other important items, such as groceries, gasoline, and credit cards. The first time you set up a budget, it may be hard to determine how much you will spend on groceries or gas. So the next step is to try your best to estimate these amounts, and track your expenditures to monitor the accuracy of your estimates. Comparing your estimiates to how much you actually spend will help you adjust your budgeting amounts for the next month.

A word of warning:  Most people are surprised at the amount of money they spend on trivial or unnecessary items. It’s important to set aside funds to cover the high priority bills first. Try to allocate a reasonable amount of money for miscellaneous expenditures, such as dining out and entertainment. For example, if you’ve been spending $100 per month on dining out, consider allowing only $50 in your budget. Then, after spending your allocated amount, don’t spend any more in that expense category. It takes discipline, but is well worth it. The money you save can go toward building up your emergency savings account, paying down your debts, saving for retirement, or maybe even paying for a vacation.

It may be difficult at first, but most changes are not easy. You’re changing your mindset and attitude toward money, and that takes time. But the longer you do it, the easier it becomes. It won’t be too long before your budget becomes a habit. 

Spring Cleaning Your Finances

Authored By: Greenpath on 3/6/2017

Spring Cleaning Your Finances

Spring Cleaning Your Finances
Springtime means opening the windows, sweeping out the
dust from over the winter and starting anew. It is also the
opportune time to clean out your wallet or purse, that junk
drawer full of receipts and those overflowing file cabinets.
But where to begin?

Sweep it
Go through your wallet and purse and fish out any receipts
you may have accumulated. Review which ones you need to
keep and why you kept them. Do you have receipts related
to rebates? If so, sit down today, fill out the form, and either
load on-line or put in the mail. Do you have credit card offers
lying around that need to be dealt with? Or, how about
passwords scribbled on post-it notes? Do you have other
receipts tacked on a bulletin board or shoved in a kitchen
junk drawer? How about all the paperwork from filing your
taxes? Rake them all together!

Rake it
Once you’ve raked together all your sensitive papers, it’s
time to decide what to do with them. For tax documents,
in most cases, you should plan on keeping tax returns
and any supporting documents (e.g., W-2s, mileage logs
if you itemize, etc.) for at least three years after the date
you filed or the due date of your tax return, whichever is
later. Always consult your tax preparer, if you have questions.
Receipts not related to refunds or extended warranties can
be set aside for shredding. Do you have a pile of credit card
offers taking up space in a drawer? Get them ready for
shredding, too!

Shred it
So, once you decide what you need to shred, how do you
handle it all? Tearing the documents in half and throwing
them out is not the way to go! A home shredder is a good
idea. It is recommended that you buy a shredder that
crosscuts. In other words, you want all that paper ending up
looking like confetti, and not in strips. Home machines are
not typically heavy-duty, so be careful as to how much you
shred at a time. If your shredder is not equipped to take on
staples or other metal, be careful to remove them from the
paper to avoid damaging the blades. If you have a lot of
sensitive documents, many communities now offer Shred
events. They enable you to drop off your documents for
shredding for free, or for a small fee, and even watch it
being shredded while you wait.

Secure it
Highly sensitive documents (social security cards, passports,
birth certificates, wills) should be locked up in a fireproof file
cabinet or lockbox. Gather all other pertinent papers, like
insurance forms, tax documents, mortgages, and put them in
a secure location. Inform trusted family members where the
documents are located and/or location of a key for the secure
file cabinet or lockbox.

A little planning this spring, alongside your traditional
cleaning, can set you up for a great financial year!

8 Steps for First Line of Defense against Credit Card Fraud

Authored By: Financial Access FCU on 2/21/2017

8 Steps for First Line of Defense against Credit Card Fraud

8 Steps for First Line of Defense against Credit Card Fraud

With all the news about breaches in security from popular places such as Target and Michaels, you may be wondering, how on earth did that happen and what can I do to protect my accounts?

Cardholder diligence and account monitoring is becoming more important as the first line of defense in fraud mitigation. Financial Access Federal Credit Union wants you to be aware of steps you can take to decrease the chances of this from happening to you:

8 Steps for first line of Defense against Credit Card Fraud

  1. Monitor activity on your accounts regularly. Fraudsters are becoming savvier at avoiding detection of fraud monitoring programs by following transaction spending patterns that are similar to cardholders as well as by using less popular merchants that may not be monitored as heavily.
  2. Ensure your financial institution including Financial Access Federal Credit Union has current contact information to reach you in case of suspect activity on your account. Financial Access members: To report your MasterCard lost or stolen, please call 1-800-338-0566 immediately. To report your VISA® Debit card lost or stolen, please call 1-800-757-9848 immediately.

  1. When shopping online, do not store your login credentials or your debit/credit card information on websites.
  2. Ensure your login credentials (user IDs and specifically passwords) for your computer, online banking, smart phones, web sites or any system where you log in has secure, complex passwords that are difficult to guess (ex: minimum of 9 characters long using a combination of upper & lower case letters, number and characters).
  3. Update passwords for web sites regularly to ensure continued protection. We recommend doing this monthly.
  4. Be cautious of accessing personal information and of purchasing online if on an unsecured or public WiFi network.
  5. Ensure that personal computer and smart phone protections are kept current (ex: firewalls, anti-virus software, etc.)
  6. Be aware of current fraud trends related to social engineering (ex: phishing) and social networking sites (ex: Facebook).

Although nothing is guaranteed to completely safeguard you against breaches, these due diligent steps will make it more difficult for the culprits. If you need assistance or have any questions feel free to contact Financial Access Federal Credit Union at 941-748-7704.

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