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Affected by the government shutdown?  by Tara

October3

government2At Linn Area Credit Union,“We Are Family” isn’t just a tagline. We want to let you know that we are here for you during the government shutdown.

We understand this may be a difficult time financially for some people. Should you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to make a loan payment, or your paycheck is delayed or less than usual, please contact us at (319) 378-0101 and ask for a financial counselor or email hello@linnareacu.org with a brief explanation of your situation and we will get in touch with you as soon as possible. We have many options that may be able to help.

We’re here for you!

Scary CC Stories: Dionn’s Nightmare  by Tara

October31

Happy Halloween, all you Linn Area gouls and goblins! We hope that your day is going well and that you’re successfully dodging any black cats that try to cross your path.

Today is the final story from our real-life spooky credit card stories – and we’ve saved the best for last. So hold onto your knickers… this story is really going to make you cringe!

Victim: Dionn Pinckney

“My nightmare began March 2010. I had been with a card company for over 12 years. Most of the time, I paid my card off every month. This card was used quite alot for frequent flyer miles. In March I charged over 1000.00 for airline tickets to attend my aunt’s funeral. Because of bad weather, the airline cancelled our flight. With the new regulations the government put in place in Feb., this affected my card. My interest rate was 4.5% before the new rules.  Then it went to 17%.

For 2 months, I kept getting this huge interest charge.  I called the card company and they told me I had to pay my credit card off 2 months in a row in order not to be charged this rate. My interest was so large, because it was acruing daily.

I was shocked and very upset. I couldn’t pay it off, because of the credit from the airline. The next month when I received the credit, I paid the balance, cancelled the card, lost my flyer miles, and demanded they send me my .13 credit. I also told them they were backstabbing good customers, and will never come back. Linn Area is now the card for this family.”

*shuddering*  Uhhh!!!! That story gives me the heebie-jeebies! Well, except for the part when Dionn found Linn Area’c credit card. That part fills me with warm fuzzies!

Scary CC Stories: Daniel’s Dark Day  by Tara

October27

Many of you are preparing for your big weekend plans to celebrate Halloween - be it taking the kiddos treat or treating or causing some trouble of your own. We wanted to continue to share those near ghost tales of our members’ credit card stories.

Here is the 2nd installment of our spooky, real-life credit card stories from members just like you: 

Victim: Daniel Raleigh

“A while back I was sent a notice from the credit card company that I have had business with for at least 15 years. I have always had AAA credit with them, and was surprised that they sent me a notice that they were going to start charging me a $75.00 annual fee (from no annual fee). I called the customer service and they said that that’s too bad, but since the economy is the way it is, either pay it or close your account. Period. I asked if they did that to all their best consumers and the person I talked with said if it was him, he would just go somewhere else to get a different credit card. I told him he needs to find another company to work for, asked him to close my account, and hung up.

I applied that same day online for a Linn Area Credit Card and recieved it a while later. I kick myself for not doing that sooner since my house mortgages as well as other loans, my savings and my checking accounts have always been with LACU.”

Eek! Talk about blood curdling customer service! Glad we were able to help Daniel through his dark day!

Scary CC Stories: Julie’s Boogie Man  by Tara

October25

As Halloween lurks in the near future, we are reminded of a contest we ran last year asking for people’s scariest credit card stories. And, trust us, some of these are downright TERRIFYING!!! 

Here is the 1st installment of our spooky, real-life credit card stories from members just like you: 

Victim: Julie Mather 

“I had an account with one of the major banks for close to 18 years. My credit card limit was over $30,000. I had never come close to that as a balance. I always paid more than the minimum every month. I NEVER had a late payment in all those years. Out of blue, I found out the bank had jumped my interest rate up 7%. I called to question this move and they said it was to stay competitive with other banks. I was told that they might lower it 1 or 2% in a couple of months. After laughing at that comment, I called JoAnn at the Blairs Ferry Rd branch and she signed me right up for your credit card!  I always thought it would be a hassle to switch my credit card over from a bank to a credit union, but it was painless and very swift! Thank You for being there when I needed you.” 

Looks like Julie found the support she needed to battle the Boogie Man! If you need help in your own battle, just click here for info on our totally unscary credit cards. 

What’s your spookiest credit card story??

Dude, where’s my phone?  by Ellen

October14

Losing your mobile phone is more than a pain in the patootie, it can be almost paralyzing. (Who memorizes phone numbers anymore, for Pete’s sake?!) Think of everything you have on there: contacts, pictures, calendar/reminders, saved logins, your current level of Angry Birds… and possibly access to your bank account information. 

This infographic is awesome. It talks about common yet lousy places to leave/forget/lose your phone and offers come great preventative measures for you to put in place now should it ever happen to you. 

Mobile banking is incredibly convenient and we’d love all of our members to check it out because it puts all of your account information at your fingertips and you can do transactions anywhere. (Seriously, it’s free and quite fabulous.) What’s more, it’s very secure and you have to enter your password each time you log in. Even if your phone falls into evil hands, they can’t get into your account information. 

Maybe this would be a good time to look into backing up the information on your phone or updating your old-fashioned address book. What would you do if your phone fell in the bathtub tomorrow?

IDA: Ben’s Success Story  by Tara

October12

Saving money can be tough, especially if you’ve been a victim of a natural disaster (hello, Flood of ’08). We totally get that. But did you know that there is a very cool government assisted program that will actually MATCH your savings dollar-for-dollar? These accounts are called Individual Development Accounts, or IDAs. These funds can only be used for homeownership, higher education, job training, or starting a small business. 

Here’s a story of one of our successful IDA savers, Ben Gardner: 

“I cannot fully express my gratitude towards Linn Area Credit Union for allowing me to participate in the IDA program.  

Upon graduation of high school, I began researching degrees that interested me, and started the process of applying for financial aid. Once I saw my tuition bill, I quickly realized that the loans I had received would simply not be enough. Needless to say, the thought of taking out more loans to cover the bill was not very appealing. With today’s ever increasing college expenses, and high interest rates, I began looking for alternative ways to fund my education.  

Luckily, I spoke with a financial counselor at Linn Area who told me about the IDA program. He informed me that a variety of contributors, including the State and Federal Governments, and the Iowa Credit Union Foundation, were sponsoring a program in which students could save up to two thousand dollars and have the amount matched by all three participants to be put toward educational expenses.

I couldn’t believe it; I thought it was too good to be true. I enrolled in the program immediately. By contributing some money I had received from my graduation party, and working as a pharmacy technician, I was able to save the entire two thousand dollars.  

Throughout the process, the coordinator of the program would remind to me make deposits, keeping me on track with my savings. I even received several sessions of free financial planning education that helped me achieve my goal. Now, when I have a college expense that I can’t afford, I just put in a request and I receive the money quickly.  

It feels great to not constantly worry about finding money to pay for books, fees, and supplies. Having the additional financial assistance from the IDA program has even allowed me to focus more on school. I don’t have to work as much to keep up with all of the bills. I feel truly blessed to have been allowed this opportunity.”

 – Ben Gardner 

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Ben! We’re glad we were able to help you get a fabulous education by taking advantage of this amazing government sponsored program!

For those of you whose ears have perked up, do note that funds are limited and you must meet certain qualifications to take part in the program. Go here for more details! The program is very popular and actually has a wait list – with one exception. If you’ve were affected by a natural disaster with a federal disaster declaration (regardless of the year!) you get to bypass the wait list! Of course, you must meet the regular program income requirements and have some source of earned income from which to make deposits. 

Ready to talk with someone? Get in touch with Sandra at our SE office by phone at 892-7396 or by email scleppe@linnareacu.org.

When Loans Get Personal  by Tara

October7

Life happens when you can least afford it. Come on, you know exactly what I mean. It seems like the worst – and most expensive – things happen at the most inconvenient times. 

My husband and I are expecting our first child, which I hear can be rather expensive! In preparation for the little one, we’ve been very careful with our finances. Now, we may have one on the way, but we already have a fur-baby, a 2 year old Yorkie mix named Wrigley. Little Wrigley weighs in at a hefty 4.5 lbs and is pretty much convinced he’s a human. Yeah, that’s probably my fault. 

Anyway, Wrigley fell severely ill from some sort of random bacteria. After three consecutive visits to the vet, we needed to take him to a 24/7 veterinary hospital. Our little guy had to stay under their care for about 48 hours. We were fortunate enough that we had access to money to cover this unexpected, but necessary cost. Although I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if we weren’t able to cover the cost… 

Sure, the vet hospital has financing options, but I definitely wouldn’t have been comfortable going that route unless it was absolutely necessary. I needed a trusted PERSON I could talk to, especially in such an emotional state. What on Earth would we have done? 

Wait, better question: What could Linn Area have done to help us out? 

I spent a little bit of time with one of our financial counselors, JoAnn, to find out what would happen if someone such as myself would have called upon Linn Area for help.

JoAnn first reminded me that one of our strengths is that we are PEOPLE who get to know PEOPLE. She said that the first thing she would have done is listen to the entire story. Next she would have started asking questions about current accounts, loans and assets, searching for ways to help me get the lowest rate possible. One of the very first things she would look for is whether or not I had a current car loan (which I do!). Depending on how much I already had paid off, increasing or extending the loan might be a possibility. Another thought was that I could take out a small signature loan and set up automatic payments so that I didn’t have to worry about remembering to pay it at a certain time each month. I could also take out a Home Equity Line of Credit to cover my unexpected expenses. Even opening a credit card could be another solid option (imagine all those Rewards points if I went that route!). 

I seriously couldn’t believe all the options we had available! And, remember, even if you’re not currently a member, Linn Area would be happy to help you! (Yes, you’d have to become a member, but that’s super easy!) 

I was comforted to know that here at Linn Area Credit Union we truly will do whatever we can to help you out. Is it possible in every scenario? Unfortunately, no. But we will listen to your story, bend over backwards and hopefully it ends up mutually beneficial. 

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, Wrigley is back to his vibrant, healthy self again!

Why Savers and Spenders Marry  by Mallory

October4

The other day I was walking out of the house with my husband and noticed that his work shoes look really worn out. He wears the exact same pair everyday and has for about 3 years. No wonder he looks in the closet and cannot understand why I have 30 pairs of shoes in there. Well, honey,  I need red shoes for this outfit, white ones for that outfit and multiple black pairs, depending on what I am in the mood to wear.

So I say to my husband, “Maybe it’s time to buy a new pair, you kind of look like a homeless person.” He just responds with, “They are fine.” Keep in mind my husband is an engineer (the bread winner, if you will) and we have no children. We can afford for him to buy new shoes! So I made him go shopping with me after work and we bought the same exact pair in 2 colors. He thought it was a bit excessive where as I thought it was very necessary. We are obviously opposites when it comes to spending. 

Does this sound familiar to anyone? Why do we do this to ourselves?

In my experience, I find “opposites attract” to work in our favor. It is important to be able to live functionally with your partner. If I was married to another spender who was as impulsive as I am, I am pretty sure we would run our finances into the ground within a year.

The argument is often made that couples with differing opinions have more conflict. But I believe if I was with another spender there would be a lot of stress that leads to conflict because of debt. I’m the kind of person who is already picking out my next car when I just got a new one 6 months ago. My husband only stopped driving his car from college because I traded it in for my new one! His contentment with not upgrading everything and buying everything right when we want it is attractive to me.

There have been studies that show that the logic behind “opposites attract” is that people look for things in others that they do not like in themselves, consciously or unconsciously. I found it frustrating in the beginning but we found a middle ground and are moving in the right direction. We are living “functionally.” I can still have fun and be somewhat impulsive but within reason. And my husband doesn’t guilt me about my spending as long as I have put some consideration to what I am buying and again, it is within reason.

I have found that conversations about big purchases make everyone more comfortable in the long run. My husband would be bored out of his mind, and probably sleeping on a futon, if it wasn’t for me and I think he appreciates our king size bed, even if he doesn’t say it. 

Here are a few tips to help those opposite couples out there:

  • The saver needs to feel somewhat comfortable with the spending because stressing them out is unfair to them. Have a discussion to find out where that comfort level is. Is it just having more coming in than going out? Or is it that they want a million dollars in the bank in 10 years? Can the spender live with this?
  • The saver also needs to get back to enjoying the impulsiveness and fun-loving person they married. Remember WHY you marred them.
  • The spender needs to prioritize. Taking a trip to Italy? Buying a 60 inch TV? Or buying an iPad? Prioritizing allows the spender something to look forward to, knowing they cannot have all of those things at one time.
  • Let the saver take care of the money. I bet the saver will save up for the iPad a lot faster than the spender because the spender will probably think Starbucks sounds good or that new xBox game looks fun!

Embrace each other’s differences and allow there to be some balance so you aren’t living happily ever after in a cardboard box.

 Are you the saver or the spender in your relationship? Let us know in the comments below!

The Truth About Payday Loans  by Mallory

September29

We’ve all seen the commercials – those payday loan places make it look really easy to get money FAST! But what’s the catch? What do the loans really involve? What are some of the benefits? What could I use instead? Well I am here to answer your queries. 

Every state has their own laws on payday loans including how much can be loaned and the cost. Or if they can even be offered (Fun fact: You cannot get a payday loan in New York). In Iowa, the loan term is 31 days, the max amount is $500 and it costs $15 for the first $100 and $10 on each $100 after.  The average APR on a payday loan is 400%!! 

To get a payday loan, you need to give the lender either a post dated check to be cashed or they get your bank account information to automatically withdraw money on an agreed upon date. It is suggested that you only borrow as much as you KNOW you can pay back with your next paycheck. High extra late fees are added if you do not pay it back on time. If you do not pay at all, you will be turned over to a collection agency, which is bad news bears for your credit. 

Some alternatives to a payday loan do exist. I suggest trying any of the following before looking into a payday loan: 

  • Negotiate a payment plan with whoever you owe money to
  • Charge it to a credit card (lower rates – find our cards here)
  • Advance from employer
  • Use overdraft protection offered by your financial (See our options here)
  • Obtain a line of credit like a home equity loan (low rates – follow this link to read about ours)
  • Borrow from your savings (use payroll deduction to automatically stash a little away each payday)
  • Borrow from a relative
  • Look into a signature loan
  • Get a cash advance on your credit card 

I am not condemning payday loans. Sometimes the alternatives are just not an option and you need the money. Borrow what you need for necessity, take care of business, pay them back in a timely manner and be done with it. These are difficult economic times and that little extra help may be just what you need to get back on your feet. But do not depend on these loans. In the long run it will cost you more than any other form of a loan and you may get stuck in a hole you cannot get out of. 

A few benefits for payday loans:

  • Usually no credit check
  • Quick and easy to get
  • Good in an emergency for quick cash
  • May be cheaper than getting late fees or having your car being repossessed 

If you have to get a payday loan, make sure you find a reputable lender with low rates and fees. Paying them back should be your first priority when you get paid, and again, only borrow what you can afford to pay back when you get your paycheck. 

My best advice would be to have a savings built up (experts say try to have at least 2 months of living expenses in your savings) or have a credit card opened only for emergencies. Some things we cannot plan for, but we can plan for the unexpected!