Tuesday, October 16, 2018

International Credit Union Day: Find Your Platinum Lining

Are you as excited as we are to celebrate International Credit Union Day on October 18, 2018? This year marks the 70th anniversary of International Credit Union Day and this year’s theme is “Find Your Platinum Lining in Credit Unions.”

The theme combines the traditional gift of platinum for 70th anniversaries, a play on the saying “every cloud has a silver lining,” and a celebration of the platinum-lined differences and impact credit unions have made and continue to make for their members and communities.

It’s a day to share your experiences as a member and to reflect upon all the benefits you enjoy by being a part of your credit union. It’s also a day to have fun! We will have cider and donuts at all of our branches on Thursday, October 18 to celebrate ICU Day so make sure you stop by!

In the spirit of ICU Day, let’s take a quick look at four factors that can help you find your platinum lining in credit unions!

1.) Foundation is members, not customers
As a member of a credit union, you own a piece of the organization. That’s why it’s often referred to as a cooperative. Your credit union only wants what’s best for you. This means we can focus on offering superior service and policies that are as member-friendly as possible.

2.) Bridge to financial wellness
A credit union will be willing to work with you through rough patches. While a bank is more likely to turn down a borrower who has a poor credit history, a credit union member representative will be happy to meet with you and work to find a loan that best suits your needs. If necessary, we can also help you learn the basics of budgeting and may offer programs to help you cover unexpected expenses. We also offer a variety of Financial Resources to help our members build their financial skills.

3.) Lower fees
Banks earn much of their profit through fees and pushing unnecessary products on their customers. While a credit union will also have fees attached to products and services, these tend to be lower than similar fees you’ll find at a bank.

4.) Better dividend rates
Credit unions offer higher dividend rates on savings accounts and lower interest rates on loans. Credit unions only need to cover operating costs, and all the money we save is passed down to our members in the form of favorable rates, enhanced services, community giving, increased operations and more. 

As you can see, we’ve got lots to celebrate! Stop by on Oct. 18 so we can show our appreciation and celebrate everything that makes a credit union special. Can’t wait to see you!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

How to Create and Keep Strong Passwords

Your passwords are like the keys to your life. And when it seems like there’s another big security breach every week, you want to be absolutely sure your passwords are strong and safe.

After all, with just a few keystrokes, a scammer can have full access to your personal information, financial accounts, social media pages and so much more. But creating those perfect passwords – and remembering them – can be difficult. We’ve outlined 6 steps for creating and keeping super-strong passwords that will keep scammers guessing.

Step #1: Choose a password manager
With so much of our lives accessible online, it’s more important than ever to keep passwords secure. One way to do this is to use a password manager. These services will generate strong passwords for all of your financial accounts, favorite websites and social media platforms and keep them safely encrypted. You will only need to create and memorize one master password, which you will use when logging into all of your accounts. There are lots of password managers on the market, but the ones that come most highly recommended are Lastpass and Keepass. You’ll want to note that LastPass is online-based while KeePass is offline-based, so there are advantages and disadvantages to using both.

Step #2: Create an unbreakable master password
Once you’ve chosen your password manager, create a strong master password. This code can open up every password of yours to potential scammers, so be extra careful about choosing one that is super-secure and virtually unbreakable. Follow the rules below and you’ll have a strong password.
  • Make it long. Many sites require a password that is a minimum of 8 characters long, but a 12-character password is even stronger. 
  • Be creative. Avoid using names, places and recognizable words because these are easily cracked. 
  • Mix it up. The best way to keep your password unbreakable is to mix up your capitalization and the kinds of characters you use, switching back and forth from letters to numbers to symbols. 
Bonus tip: Worried about creating and remembering a long, unbreakable password? Turn a sentence into a password by using mnemonics, misspelled words and symbols that only you will understand. Here are a few to get you started:
  • WOO!TAwonTWS = Woohoo! The Astros won the World Series!
  • D:’(OspldMlk.JdreenqOJ = Don’t cry over spilled milk. Just drink orange juice 
  • 1tubuupshrtsin2Mpnts = I tuck button-up shirts into my pants. 
Once you’ve created a super-strong master password, work on memorizing it. Don’t store the password anywhere online or on your phone; write it down on an unmarked piece of paper. Rip up the paper as soon as you’ve committed the password to memory. This should happen fairly quickly since you will be using it quite often. 

Step #3: Update all your passwords
Next, you’re going to sync all the websites and accounts you use with your password manager. Follow the guidelines on your password manager for this step, as they differ with each service. When you’re through, you’ll only be able to log into these sites by using your master password.

Step #4: Use two-factor authentication
Add another layer of protection by choosing two-factor authentication whenever you have that option.

Step #5: Be careful with security questions 
Ironically, security questions are extremely insecure. Anyone can Google your dog’s name or your mother’s hometown. And, if all a scammer has to do to retrieve your password with the “I forgot my password” tab is answer a security question, the strongest passwords in the world won’t do you any good. Protect yourself by treating security questions like passwords. Never answer them truthfully. Instead, make up mnemonics or nonsensical answers that are hard to crack but easy for you to remember.

Step #6: Don’t let your browser or phone “remember” your passwords 
Don’t be lazy; keep your passwords in your head and not on your devices. Otherwise, you’ll be in deep trouble if your computer or phone is swiped. Keep your passwords strong and safe. You don’t want to be an easy target for scammers!

Your Turn: What’s your best tip for creating a super-strong password? Share it with us in the comments.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

6 Times a Bargain is Not a Bargain

With the biggest spending season of the year looming ahead, it’s time to brush up on your shopping smarts. Don’t get caught springing for something you can’t afford! This year, give yourself the gift of an intact budget and a credit card balance that doesn’t haunt you for months or years to come. Here’s when that steal of a deal is not such a bargain after all.

1. When you don’t need it 
The price might be right. But, if the heavily marked-down item is one you don’t need, you’re just blowing money you could be using for savings or to purchase the stuff you actually do need.

2. When it’s a faulty product 
Sometimes, it doesn’t pay to be cheap. If an item is retailing at a ridiculously low price, hold it up to this checklist to determine its quality:
  • Where was it manufactured? If the product has a designer label, but also has a “Made in China” tag, you’re looking at a cheap knockoff that isn’t such a bargain after all. 
  • Are there any noticeable defects or missing parts? 
  • Does the item look worn out? 
  • Is the material cheaply made? 
3. When it’s going to go bad before you can use it 
Before buying in bulk at your local warehouse store to snag a great deal, be sure the food won’t go bad or get stale before you can eat it.

4. When the “sale price” is the highest the item has ever been sold for at this location 
Retailers sometimes feature an item’s price as a “sale price” when, in reality, the store has never sold it for more than the tagged amount. The store might be basing its sale price on an inflated Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). But, if the MSRP was artificially inflated to begin with, you’re not getting a bargain.

Other times, the item will come with a pre-marked-down MSRP. The manufacturer’s label might read: “Original price: $49.99. Our price: $39.99.” Of course, the item was never sold at $49.99. If an item is really marked down, you’ll see another price tag slapped on top of the manufacturer’s label with the newer, lower price.

5. When you need to mail in a rebate 
Rebates are a retailer’s best friend. Most of us are too lazy or forgetful to mail them in. We instead end up paying full price with the retailer getting the last laugh. Only pick up rebate items with an instant at-the-register rebate.

6. When it’s part of a liquidation sale 
Avoid liquidation sales. While shoppers sometimes snag great deals, they are riddled with rip-offs. Retailers post signs claiming “Everything Must Go!” – but that’s where the honesty ends. The “Rock Bottom Prices” they advertise are often as high as the original MSRP – or even higher. The store owners are depending on shoppers to assume that all items are bargain-priced just because they’re at a liquidation sale. Proceed at liquidation sales with extreme caution.

Your Turn: Have you ever snagged a great deal only to realize later that it wasn’t quite the bargain you thought it was?

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Benefits of Using eBanking and Mobile Banking

Have you started using Community Financial’s eBanking or Mobile Banking yet? The biggest benefits of using online banking services are convenience, security, and an easy way to go green. Let’s explore some other benefits of using online or mobile banking.

eBanking 

When you open an account at Community Financial, you have access to online banking through a safe and secure website. Once you take a few minutes to setup your account, you can enjoy the freedom and convenience of banking online. Our online banking service provides:

• Account information that matters to you
• Detailed history including pending MasterCard® Debit & Credit Card transactions
• A fast bill pay service called ePay
• FI to FI Transfers between Community Financial and other institutions
• eAlerts sent to your email or texted to your phone
• Secure Message Center and ePay bill pay Support Center

Want to learn all of the benefits eBanking provides? Visit cfcu.org/ebanking or watch our eBanking Benefits Video to learn more!


Mobile Banking 

If you’d like to use your smartphone for more sophisticated purposes, plus add a ton of convenience and peace of mind to your life, consider mobile banking. With a couple of taps, you can access a whole suite of financial information. Our mobile banking service provides:

• Ability to check your balance at any time, even when you are on the go
• 24-hour-a-day instant access
• Access to the latest banking technology
• Safety and security

Community Financial’s mobile banking app is designed to make banking easier. Did you know you can use mobile banking to do more than check your account balances? Watch our Mobile Banking Video to learn the benefits our mobile app provides!


Mobile banking won’t replace traditional, face-to-face interaction. There will always be a place in the credit union service standards for the human interaction. What mobile banking apps offer is a wonderful supplement to those high-quality services. Visit cfcu.org/mobile to learn more about our mobile app.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Pros and Cons of Buying New Vs. Used Cars

When you’re ready to buy some new wheels, should you spring for a new vehicle or buy a pre-owned one? Choosing between new and used cars can be a complicated decision. To make your job a little easier, we’ve outlined the pros and cons of each purchase type below.

Pros of New Cars 

  • Status symbol. The allure of owning a new vehicle is obviously its attractiveness. 
  • Fewer repairs. You can assume you won’t be dealing with major repairs or maintenance issues for a while. 
  • Easier shopping. There’s no need to drag your prospective new car to the mechanic to check it out. 
  • More financing options. You’ll be offered attractive incentives, like cash rebates from the carmaker and better interest rates from the lender. 
  • Improved technology. Recent models have incredible technology, such as programmable settings, autonomous emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. 
  • Automaker’s guarantee. New cars come with warranty coverage for their first three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. 

Cons of New Cars 

  • Price. Of course a new car will cost more. But, what makes it more painful is the fact that you can get a comparable vehicle for much less. 
  • Depreciation. New cars go down in value as soon as they leave the lot, often by 20%. At the end of the first year of ownership, your new car can drop another 10%. 
  • Higher premiums. Insurance companies charge more for newer vehicles. 

Pros of Used Cars 

  • Price tag. It’s not unusual to find a used car in decent condition with a price tag that’s 30% lower than a similar brand-new model. 
  • Less depreciation. With the previous owner absorbing the initial depreciation on the car, your vehicle will only experience a minimal drop in price. 
  • Lower insurance. With your car weighing in at a lower value, your monthly insurance premiums will be lower. 
  • Lower interest. If you finance a used car, you’ll likely have a higher interest rate. However, since the loan amount is lower, you’ll save in total interest payments over the life of the loan. 
  • Predictability. When buying a model that’s been around for a few years, you’ll have a wealth of research available on your car and can know what to expect. 

Cons of Used Cars 

  • Complicated purchase. With a used vehicle, you’ll want to get a vehicle history report and bring it to a mechanic for an inspection. 
  • Fewer choices. When buying pre-owned, you don’t get to be picky about things like colors and features. 
  • Risk. Even if you do your homework well, you run the risk of walking out with a lemon when you buy a pre-owned car. 
Whether you choose to go with a new or previously-owned vehicle, don’t forget to check with Community Financial for your auto loan. Learn more and check today’s rates at cfcu.org/auto.

Your Turn: Did you buy your car new or pre-owned? Are you happy with your decision? Let us know in the comments.

Community Financial Credit Union, P.O. Box 8050, Plymouth, Michigan 48170-8050;
© Community Financial 2013
Federally insured by NCUA.
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Additional coverage provided by ESI.
Federally insured by NCUA.