Tips for Scoring Cheap Summer Getaways

Everybody likes a summer vacation, but travel can be expensive. If you’re looking to squeeze one more getaway into your budget before summer ends, our financial aces here at Wauna Credit Union have some tips for traveling on the cheap and getting the best deals.

Go in the Off-Season

During the hottest summer months, business at popular vacation spots like Arizona and New Mexico tends to slow down dramatically. If you can take the heat, you can score some great deals at premium resorts, golf courses, and other attractions during the off-season. Just remember that the off-season is also when many of these places perform annual maintenance and major construction projects. If, for example, a pool is important to you, make sure the resort you’re visiting won’t be renovating it while you’re there.

Buy a Package

When considering a last-minute getaway, travel packages that combine flights, hotel, and sometimes meals, can be the best deals out there. The key is to be flexible on where and when to go.

Get the App for That

These days, there’s a travel app or website for pretty much everything – including the lowest-priced flights, hotels, and travel packages. A few to consider include Kayak, Hipmunk, Momondo, Airfare Watchdog, and Skyscanner. Each has a slightly different focus, so try out several to see which ones work best for your needs. Keep in mind that some of these sites do not carry regional airlines, which often have good deals. And, when you do find a great flight deal, take a look at the airline’s website, since some deals are only available when you book direct.

Get Social

Just as some deals are only available when you book direct, some travel operators offer special deals for those who follow them on social media. The best deals go fast, so follow your favorites on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to their promotional email lists. If you live in a smaller town, you could save by driving to a major city where flights are generally cheaper. By the same token, if you live in or are flying to a metropolis like Los Angeles, be sure to look to smaller airports like Burbank, Ontario and Long Beach. They may be slightly less convenient, but many low fare carriers favor these regional airports because their fees are often lower.

Capitalize on the Strong Dollar

If you’ve avoided historically- expensive destinations like Japan, now’s your opportunity to visit and cross them off your bucket list. The strong dollar means exchange rates are favorable, and your money will go farther. If you want to stay closer to home, travel gurus also recommend Canada, since it’s 40% cheaper than it was a year ago.

Wauna Credit Union Raises Big Bucks for Food for Kids Program

Communities are brought together by many hands, many hardships, and lots of love. For the Food for Kids Program at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry in Astoria, Oregon, it’s no different.

“Last year we put together 2,246 food bags, which puts us just under 13,000 lbs of food provided to our community,” says Pantry volunteer, Janet Wilker.

In just six years, the little pantry located at the Saint Mary’s Star of the Sea Church, has given away over 10,000 food bags. The bags, filled with groceries and provisions, are then given to area individuals and families alike, but more specifically, the children.

“Every now and then we run into a parent who thanks us for being there for their family,” said Lorrie Radu, also a Pantry volunteer. “We like to think of it as delivering a little bag of hope every Friday.”

From left: Kristen DeForrest of WCU, and Lorrie Radu and Janet Wilker of the St. Vincent de Paul Food Panty.

Employees of area financial cooperative, Wauna Credit Union (WCU), choose one charity or non-profit organization within to raise funds toward. This round, they selected the Food for Kids Program. The Credit Union managed to raise over $6,500 for the Pantry. WCU Compliance Specialist, Kristen DeForrest helped coordinate the fundraising efforts.

“Our employees care about giving back to our communities and that’s why we chose the Food for Kids program,” said DeForrest. “I know this food makes a tremendous impact on the students’ ability to learn and grow, and we hope others will join us in supporting this very worthy cause,” she said

St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry is located at 1465 Grand Ave., Astoria, OR 97103 and is open Tuesdays from 1 to 3 pm and Friday through Saturday from 10 am to noon. They may be reached by phone at (503) 325-2007.

Teach your kids dollars and cents this National Credit Union Youth Month

If you’ve been meaning to talk to your kids about money, April is the perfect time to start. In addition to National Credit Union Youth Month, April also marks National Teach a Child to Save Day. So, in the spirit of occasion, here are three real-world experiences that parents can use to introduce kids to personal finance.

Have your children make purchases
Purchasing something is perhaps the most direct way to understand how money works. Therefore, it’s a great opportunity for your children. Try including them the next time you make a purchase.

Whether it’s at the supermarket or movie theater, give your kids cash to hand to the cashier, and then have them collect and count the change.

Lesson: Money is used in exchange for goods and services.

Open a savings account with them
There’s no better way to explain saving money to a child than to open an account in their name for this specific purpose.

Show them an actual Wauna Credit Union branch, point out our new Virtual Teller Machines and ATMs, and have them meet our staff. Reinforce the roles that financial institutions play in managing money. After the account is open, create a plan together for making regular deposits.

Additionally, throughout April, Wauna Credit Union will deposit the first $5 for all new Youth Jump Start Club Accounts. Members can also enter to win cash prizes by making deposits! Learn more here.

Lesson: While piggy banks are cute, savings accounts are the best option for stashing your cash.

Inspire them to start a business
There’s a reason why lemonade stands have stood the test of time. These micro businesses represent many children’s first exposure to earning money. If lemonade’s not their thing, encourage them to offer pet sitting or yard work to your neighbors.

Lesson: Money is earned through work.

Our young members have limitless potential, and financial education from Wauna Credit Union can be instrumental in helping them achieve it. Swing by one of our branches and celebrate National Credit Union Youth Month.

By staying true to credit union philosophy in an engaging new way, we can set our young members on the path to financial education, understanding and security. We look forward to seeing you — and your future — soon!

Financial Benefits of Membership at a Credit Union

Guess what?

Credit unions provide all of the financial services you need: savings accounts, loans, financial education, credit cards, online and mobile banking, and more. The “more” part is the best part, because it represents your benefits as a member.

Okay, so what’s the difference between a credit union and a bank?

The key difference between local credit unions and other financial services is that we are owned by members like you. Unlike for-profit financial institutions, which take their marching-orders from stockholders, we exist only to serve you and your financial needs. You’re the boss! With no Wall Street fat-cats to pay, we are uniquely positioned to return direct financial benefits to members. This includes better interest rates and lower fees.

But what does that mean to you?

In 2018 alone, Oregon credit unions provided a whopping $152 million in direct financial benefits to over 2 million members. That’s the equivalent of about $75 per member, and $160 per household. Financing a $25,000 new automobile for 60 months at an Oregon credit union saves you an average of $177 in annual interest compared to what you would pay at the nearby bank.

How do credit union members benefit?

Do you want more examples of the benefits of belonging to a credit union? How does earning a better return on your savings sound? 2018 also saw the collective member benefit from higher interest rates on savings at more than $3.6 million. We supported local spending to the tune of $333 million. Not to mention a $1.8 billion boost to the Oregon economy.

And the list goes on…

  • In the Northwest, 6.5 million consumers have discovered the Credit Union Difference.
  • Nearly everyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Idaho, Oregon, or Washington is eligible to join a credit union. Learn more by visiting www.asmarterchoice.org.
  • Credit unions provide jobs to 19,600 of your Northwest neighbors—2,520 in Idaho, 5,850 in Oregon, and 12,200 in Washington.
  • Oregon alone supported more than $802 million in total income to working Oregonians.
  • Credit unions earn a corporate tax exemption because they are not-for-profit cooperatives that return earnings to their members.
  • Giving back to the community is part of the Credit Union DNA.
  • You’re treated like you truly belong—because you’re more than a number—you’re a member.
  • Credit unions live by Northwest values: local, cooperative, community based.

To learn even more about how credit unions support the Pacific Northwest, visit OregonLovesCreditUnions.com. Find out why 50 percent of Oregonians have chosen credit unions as their financial services partners.

Wauna Credit Union is also a very safe place for you to save money. The National Credit Union Association insures all deposits up to at least $250,000 per individual.

So, spread the good word! Tell your friends to join a credit union today!

All analysis provided by economists at ECONorthwest, a highly regarded economic consulting firm.   

Five habits that can ruin your budget

BudgetingSo you’ve set a budget and on paper it looks fabulous. You’ve created different spending categories and what seem like reasonable limits. Yet, somehow it just doesn’t quite work month after month. Sound familiar? It’s frustrating, but there are fixes.

The first thing to do is double check that your budget is reasonable, given factors like income and goals. If everything looks set up for success, then ask yourself if any of the following habits are derailing your master-plan:

1. Impulse purchases
If you’re prone to buying items on a whim, this might be your culprit. Even if it’s a coffee a day or pack of gum every time you’re standing in line at the check out counter, those costs add up. It’s an even bigger problem if you can’t walk into a store without buying all the amazing things, whether you need them or not. The key thing to think on is want vs. need.

2. Blurring the line between needs and wants
All budgets are loosely based on allotting your spending between needs (mortgage, bills) and wants (entertainment, eating out). In theory, the division between the two categories is clear. However, in the moment, the line can get blurry.

For example, you might justify treating yourself to dinner at a restaurant because you had the worst day ever, even if the meal is going to exceed your “eating out” limits for the week or month. Remember, budgets don’t have to be a bummer. Allow yourself small adjustments here and there, but be sure everything adds up. If you spend more in one category, spend less in another. Easy peasy.

3. Not tracking your spending
Unless you can remember every single purchase you make throughout a budget cycle, review your spending regularly. If it’s hard to work this task into your normal routine, set a schedule for yourself, e.g. every three days, spend two minutes looking at your checking account activity. Super tip: setting reminders on your phone is an easy way to make this a recurring event. With our U-Banking platform, there are plenty of awesome savings tools you can start using today.

Whenever you see an expense you don’t remember or didn’t plan, make sure you add it to your total costs for the week, month, or whatever timeline you’ve set.

4. Failing to comparison shop
If you always take the first deal you find when shopping, you’re probably spending more than you have to. Next time, do a little comparison shopping to see if there’s a better offer. This is especially true if you’re buying online. With the intense competition between online retailers, it’s always worth your time to shop around for better prices.

5. You don’t automate your savings
Putting money into your savings account may be the most important part of your budget. However, if you transfer it manually, you may forget or avoid doing it because you’ve over-spent in other areas.

SavingsThe solution? Set up recurring transfers from your checking to your savings account through U-Banking. Designate a day (preferably just after you get paid) and a predetermined amount, then let technology do the rest. That way, you’ll always hit your savings goals every month.

Budgeting doesn’t have to be a chore or something you frown over. With a few thoughts and easy steps, you’ll smile when you notice the extra bucks at the end of your timeline.

Reducing Seasonal Energy Costs

Brrrr! For many of us, winter means high energy bills, but sitting in the dark or turning off the heat are not your only options. Here are some ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency and save money during the cold months:

Sealing

Cold air can get in around the sides of windows, doors, and vents. If you hold a piece of tissue near the inside frames on a windy day and it flutters, you should seal the window. Visit your local hardware store for weather-stripping. Talk to an employee or do research online about the right product.

Insulation

Insulating your attic can increase your home’s energy efficiency significantly, and it’s usually fairly easy. Consult with a professional or do some research at the Zip-Code Insulation Program, created by the Department of Energy.

Heating and Cooling Systems

Temperature systems account for about 56% of the energy in a typical U.S. home, so updating can save a lot. You can retrofit or replace your furnace or boiler, depending how long your system has to live and how much each option costs. New heating systems can achieve an efficiency of up to 97%.

Appliances and Electronics

Appliances account for 20% of energy use in a typical U.S. home. Old ones can be energy hogs. To find energy-efficient products, look for the Energy Star label.

Water Heaters

Insulating or increasing the insulation on your water heater tank and pipes can decrease heat loss and lower your energy bills for a fraction of the price of replacing your water heater. However, if your water heater is nearing the end of its life, it is probably a good idea to replace it.

Solar Panels

Solar panels typically have high upfront costs, though they can provide clean, free energy for years to come. Use the Solar Calculator to estimate the cost of installing panels.

Financing

Many cities and states have programs to help pay for green renovations. Contact Wauna Credit Union to find a low-interest loan. You may also qualify for tax benefits; visit the IRS’s website at www.irs.gov.

Energy usage and efficiency figures come from the Department of Energy. For more facts and tips, visit www.energysavers.gov.

Scam alert: Important info regarding my mortgage?

Image result for mortgage scam postcards

Mysterious postcards are showing up in mailboxes all over the country and they’ve started hitting home. This “time-sensitive” matter has many of us scratching our heads and saying, “huh?” Well, guess what? They’re 100%, for sure, mortgage scams.

So, what the heck are they?

Let’s address the elephant in the room and put to rest that these did NOT come from Wauna Credit Union — in fact, they did not originate from any financial institution. Recipients are urged to contact a toll-free number (after doing some digging, these postcards have listed 855-901-9227, 800-230-8750, 888-405-0963, and 855-549-212) regarding a recently closed WCU mortgage.

Where are they coming from?

Whether or not you have indeed recently closed on a WCU mortgage (congratulations if you have!) companies from all over the world have the ability to purchase your information if it has been publicly listed (sometimes even if it hasn’t been!) But your first giveaway should be that the Mortgage ID number provided is bogus.

Often times, scammers will pull what’s called the “phantom help” maneuver, where they’ll encourage you to reduce or even stop your mortgage payments while they work to lessen your costs (for a moderate fee, of course). Unfortunately, by the time you realize you’re being taken advantage of, the phantom helper is long gone.

If you look reeeeeeally closely in the bottom right-hand corner of the examples we’ve provided, you’ll see a “All information provided by H.W.C.” and a “Not affiliated with…” disclosure. Problem is you can grow old searching for information about H.W.C. and come back with nothing solid. We’ve also seen loandepot.com, Heritage Warranty Company, and Mortgage Protection Services, only none of these are legitimate businesses.

Conduct a quick online search for “Mortgage Protection Services” and you’ll find they have an ‘F’ rating with Better Business Bureau, hundreds of thousands of complaints on Ripoff Report, and even have Cease and Desist orders from several states, including Illinois and Massachusetts.

We called the number!

Image result for mortgage scam postcardsDarn right we called the number. In fact, we tried all the numbers we were able to find. Some connect to a live person, others are recordings, and one dialed directly to an automated system. Regardless of which number, we were eventually probed for personal information. Funny enough, these fraudsters refuse to give out any information about themselves, or even the actual company they are working with.

To be clear: Wauna Credit Union will NEVER ask for your social security number, passwords, or other sensitive information via postcard or over the phone.

So, how do I protect myself against these postcards?

It never feels good to be the target of a scam, but unfortunately it happens to us all. Should one of these end up in your mailbox, recycle it. Do not call the number. Do not play their games. Toss it and forget it. Remember, Wauna Credit Union will not send you notifications like this. If you are ever uncertain, contact us right away.

Onto protecting you from the next scam!

Protect yourself this holiday shopping season

As your credit union, we want to help you make the most of your time and money during the holidays while keeping your financial information safe and secure. Smart shopping strategies can also keep your finances from going “into the red” on Black Friday.

This, the busiest shopping day of the year, signals the start of the holiday shopping season — and it promises to be robust. With low unemployment and increased consumer confidence, the National Retail Federation reports that Americans are expected to increase spending by 4.5 percent over last year, shelling out an average of $1,007 this holiday season.

Even if you don’t plan to spend thousands of those hard-earned dollars, the following tips will help you find the best bang for your buck, encourage safe shopping habits, and keep your finances going from black to red when shopping for deals and holiday steals.

 

Preparation is key:

  • Use a budget—and stick to it. Decide ahead of time how much you want to spend on your Black Friday shopping spree and do your best to resist impulse buying — especially if you’re not sure how good a specific deal is. Black Friday sales, including door-buster specials, are designed to get you into a store so that the retailer can sell you something else.
  • Make a list. The holidays are an exciting time, and it can be easy to get carried away. Making a list might keep you from buying something that’s beyond your budget.
  • Start early. You can no longer count on checking the ads in the Sunday paper to get the best deals. To judge how good a sale may be, you’ll need to track the deals leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, too.
  • Know before you go. Study the ads — in print and online — the weekend before Thanksgiving.
  • Check one of the Black Friday websites. You’ll find tons of leaked Black Friday ads like net and blackfriday.gottadeal.com.

 Gather your tools:

  • Use tech to comparison shop. You don’t have to go retailer-by-retailer to compare prices. Try Google Shopping and services like NexTag. Apps such as ShopSavvy and Shopkick let you scan bar codes or QR codes to compare prices, get discounts, and score coupons.
  • Check the retailers’ apps. Many Black Friday sites have their own apps but so do the big guys like Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart. Amazon’s app, for example, lets you use a smartphone camera to scan products and price-shop online.
  • Use loyalty programs. Stores with loyalty programs may offer sales and promotions to their members first, then let them earn rewards on what they buy. Black Friday shopping alerts can get you first dibs on promotions, coupons, and discounts.
  • Get social. The Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of your favorite retailers are a great way to find out about deals and promotions. Retailers will often reward customers who like or follow them with special alerts to Black Friday discounts and incentives.
  • Check the store’s policies. Almost all of the major retailers have some form of price-match policy, but some stores might suspend their price-match guarantees during the Black Friday weekend on certain items, so read the fine print.

Other money-saving options:

  • Try an older model. When buying electronics, consider older versions that may have been the latest and greatest just a few months ago.
  • Track your spending. Review your account statements, pay bills regularly, and monitor your accounts through online banking.
  • Use your talents. Give a homemade gift of baked goods, mason jar mixes, or art. Homemade gifts can cost a fraction of a similar item from a store.
  • Use Credit Card Reward Programs. Consider a WCU VISA Rewards card and earn big, big points. You’re spending money regardless, so give yourself something in return and save $$ on a lower interest rate over the big banks.

Strategies to safeguard your credit and debit card purchases:

At the store…

  • At the cash register, protect your PIN by blocking the keypad from the view of cashiers or other customers.
  • Some non-metal keypads have heat sensors that are active for several minutes. Infrared cameras on smartphones can be used to obtain your PIN. We suggest resting your fingers on other keys as you enter your PIN. May seem silly, but better safe than sorry.

When shopping online…

  • Do not use public wireless networks for online purchases.
  • Shop on trusted sites with https:// in the URL. Be sure an icon with a lock appears to the left. The “s” stands for “secure” and indicates communication with a site that is encrypted.
  • Type the merchant’s address directly into your browser; avoid links.
  • Use complicated passwords with at least eight characters. Include numbers, special characters, and upper- and lower-case numbers.
  • Keep the operating system, antivirus, and security software updated on your computers and mobile devices.

Set yourself up for success:

  • Use our online account monitoring service through U-Banking and report any suspicious activity to us right away.
  • Keep a list of all card account numbers in a safe place, so you can report it immediately if they are lost or stolen.
  • We recommend that you don’t store your payment information on shopping sites or shopping apps.
  • Increase your account security by linking your debit card to a secondary account rather than your main account. Or, opt to use credit cards exclusively for purchases.

The gift of a brighter financial future

Give yourself the gift of a brighter financial future this holiday season. Take education classes or look for low interest loans to help you achieve your financial dreams in the coming year. Stop by a branch or visit us online for possibilities. With the safety and security of Wauna Credit Union at your back, this is sure to be a wonderful holiday season!

How do I remove a debt collection from my credit report?

If you’ve ever let a debt go unpaid, your creditor probably sent it to a debt collector. Debt collectors are serious about getting you to pay. That’s why part of their strategy is to list the unpaid account on your credit report. This in turn damages your credit score, and appears on your report for future lenders to see. Your collection will remain on your credit report for up to seven years.

While there is no guaranteed tactic to getting it removed, here are a few things you can try:

Check for accuracy

If you’re reviewing your credit report and don’t recognize the collection account, confirm that it’s actually yours.

A study by the Federal Trade Commission concluded that about 25% of consumers had an error on their report, and 5% were stuck with higher interest rates as a result. Additionally, about 20% of people who disputed those errors received a better credit score.

File a dispute (if the debt isn’t yours)

If you discover a mistake, let the credit-reporting bureaus know as soon as possible. Send a message online or through the mail explaining the error and why it’s wrong, and provide copies of any supporting documentation if possible.

Credit bureaus typically have 30 days to respond. Even if they correct the inaccurate information, however, it might take a few months for your report to update.

Write a “goodwill letter”

What do you do if the collection account is accurate? Try writing a “goodwill letter” to your creditor.

Because if you have great credit history and pay off the collection, they may remove the negative information. Alternatively, if you missed payments because of a financial hardship, you should write a letter explaining that as well (just make sure you’ve since paid off your collection balance).

Need help reviewing your credit report? Talk to one of Balance’s Certified Financial Coaches or contact us to talk with one of our friendly member consultants today!

Not the Chief of Kisses and Hugs: CXO, John Moore celebrates 5 years at Wauna Credit Union

Some leaders just have it…

…that spark you can’t help but feel drawn to…their charisma, challenging nature, or their ease in guiding the ship. This Wauna Credit Union leader comes from what us Credit Union-ers call the “Dark Side”, having spent the bulk of his early career in big banks. But it’s hard to shun such a past when with it comes a myriad of great ideas, experiences, and what-not-to-dos that have not only embraced our Wauna culture, but have inspired many to be greater.

And so today we celebrate our CXO, John Moore, because today marks fives years he has spent with us here at Wauna Credit Union. And to give you a better idea of who the man is behind the title, we posed a few queries to Mr. Moore to learn just a little bit more about who he is and what makes him tick.

What is your current position?

John hoisting up a Branch Achievement Eagle Trophy

CXO, which stands for “Chief Experience Officer” and not the Chief of Kisses and Hugs — although I do value all of our members and want them all to know how we are appreciative and honored to be entrusted as their consultants. More specifically, I Provide help and support to training, lending, and all WCU branches. This ensures our focus is on creating life experiences for our members with every interaction we have.

What is something that working at WCU has taught you?

Coming from a 20+ year career in banking, I thought that credit unions did the little loans and small savings accounts. Also, I had no idea that WCU is a full-service financial provider. I am glad I didn’t know what I didn’t know prior to coming here or I would have felt intimidated competing against WCU. This credit union has the best Residential, Commercial, and Consumer loan products on the market. A bank cannot come close to delivering a service promise like we do. We tailor our lending and deposit products to meet what our membership asks for. Also, we survey our membership and always put their needs first…that is why we are here. I now truly understand what being “member-owned” means.

If you could choose one new hobby what would it be?  

I would love to write a book. Something in the horror genre, but nothing involving clowns as I don’t want to be afraid of my own work.

John and his daughter, Emma, giving the “Wauna Strong” post in front of his new rig

We hear you’re quite a fan of Star Wars. See if you can answer some trivia: In real life, this material made up of made of nitrobenzene, saltpeter, sulfur, and diatomaceous earth would have caused Bespin to explode. What do you call this substance?

Actually, it’s part of my New Employee Orientation presentation. I tell new employees that I will never leave or retire from WCU but will actually be encased in a block of Carbonite.  Oh, and Han not only shot first, but was the only one to fire his weapon.

Is it better to be extraordinary and always late, or just OK and always on time? 

Well, as the CXO, I would like to say be on time and be extraordinary. But if these are my choices then definitely get more beauty rest to be that much more extraordinary.

There you have it.

He loves Star Wars, is a member-oriented leader, and cares about his staff and the credit union movement. Thank you for a “Waunderful” 5 years, John! We are glad you came over to Wauna Credit Union from the Dark Side! We also look forward to freezing you in Carbonite and placing you in our headquarters’ lobby.