John Holt : November 3, 2014 5:07 pm : President's Blog
Internet banking has come a long way since first-generation solutions were introduced in the 1990s. Older systems allowed you to view recent statements online, conduct transfers between accounts at the same institution, and pay a limited range of bills. Over time, however, most people have come to expect greater accessibility. We are fully cognizant of that.
We get it. You want to bank 24/7 no matter where you are. It is for this reason that we continue to improve upon our digital banking experience (note that I didn’t say online banking experience). The digital banking landscape is changing and it continues to be segmented by device (online, mobile, tablet) or services (personal financial management, P2P, e-Pay). And soon a new player – Apple Pay – will enter the arena.
Although some will argue that there is still an urgent need for physical branch locations, more attention is being given to the fact that the digital channel is now the branch of choice. With this in mind, our goal is to present you with an optimal user experience. Statistics even suggest that consumers are leaving banks and credit unions that do not offer them the digital experience they expect.
With the continuing use of mobile devices for banking (50% of consumers and growing, according to a recent First Data survey), we know we have to continue to adapt our technologies. By the end of the year, you will see a sleeker design for our Mobile app. You will also find it easier to access accounts, pay bills, make deposits, access e-Statements, stay up to date on the latest promotions, and get real time rate information.
Next year we will also launch Apple Pay, your wallet without the wallet. It will make paying for transactions easier than ever. This process will eliminate common online shopping hassles, like entering credit card information and typing out a billing address. For those who are concerned about security, private information will be secure since it will not be shared with the merchant.
Also on the horizon is the conversion to EMV chips in our VISA credit card. With all of the recent news around fraud and data breaches, consumers are more focused on the safety of making purchases. This awareness has called for more security. EMV cards include tiny electromagnetic chips which authenticate the transaction, and is proven to reduce transaction fraud.
Digital banking is changing the way everyone banks, and to effectively keep pace with the demands, we are prepared to continue ensuring we provide the latest and greatest technology.
Stay tuned! More will follow!
President and CEO
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Paying for school out of pocket isn’t a reality for most. I know there are exceptions to this, but research shows that seven in 10 college seniors (71%) who graduated last year had student loan debt, with an average of $29,400 per borrower. It’s expensive and unless you are willing to work multiple jobs and endless hours per week, student loans are the only option.
While student loans create opportunity, the burden of the debt upon graduation can be very stressful and overwhelming. More often than not, you are looking at a statement showing a student loan balance that seems too high to pay. Making matters worse, you may be unemployed, underemployed, or just not in a financial position to start making payments on your loans.
At the end of the day, you’ve worked hard to get through school. Now it’s time to learn how to manage your finances so you’re not living pay check to pay check, you’re able to pay off your student loan debt, and you’re finally able to move out of your parent’s house!
Create a budget.
Creating a budget helps you easily track your income and expenses. It’s also very telling. So start budgeting. You can use anything from a budget app to an excel spreadsheet. Track everything. Start with your disposable income and then go through and list all of your expenses, including your daily stops at Dunkin Donuts. This helps you see what expenses are necessary and what expenses are unnecessary. Can you cut anything? I mean, don’t give up everything to save money though. Just don’t splurge.
Cut expenses then apply that extra money to your student loan.
You’ve created a budget, now what can you cut? Cutting expenses isn’t as hard as it may seem. First start by cutting back on the unnecessary expenses, then take a look at everything else. I know the goal is to move out of your parent’s house, but if you can reduce housing expenses, it may be worth it to stay a little longer. Typically, housing is the biggest monthly expense, so cutting back can provide the biggest boost to cash flow. Use that money to pay down your student loan debt. To further increase cash flow, you can also reduce recurring expenses such as your cable or cell phone bill, or even sell stuff you’re no longer using for cash, like some of those text book you’ll most likely never use again.
Don’t be afraid of your student loan debt.
Think about your current financial situation and ask yourself: Do I need to lower my payment? Do I need to postpone my payment? However, just remember, the debt doesn’t go away, so the more you can pay and the sooner you can start making those payments, the quicker the debt will be paid off. And the quicker you pay off your student loans, the less burdened you’ll feel.
Find ways to pay off your student loan debt faster.
What if you tried to pay off $29,400 in student loan debt in three years? Seems impossible, right? If you pay $901.03 for 36 months at an average rate of 6.50%, you actually can pay your loan off in three years! Although probably not as easy as it sounds, if you can find a way to increase your monthly income while reducing your monthly expenses, you might find that it actually is possible.
Your student loan debt doesn’t have to be scary, and eventually you will pay off it off. It’s up to you just how fast. If you need help figuring out how to manage your loans, please contact us and ask for a financial review and advice! Please also look for more information about our new student loan program coming very soon.
Our goal is to make your financial life easier!
President and CEO
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Home Depot recently announced they were investigating a potential breach in their payments data, which may impact shoppers who made credit or debit card purchases in their stores from April forward. In light of this announcement, I just wanted to take the time to remind you that we do everything in our power to protect your personal financial information.
We have fraud detection systems in place that monitor your credit and debit activity to minimize any adverse effects on you. If your cards are used for a purchase that triggers an alert, you will be contacted by our Transaction Review Department and asked to verify the purchase. The caller will only ask that you confirm the amount and location of the purchase, no other personal information will be requested. In the meantime, we encourage you to regularly review your credit and debit transaction history and account statements. We have many services in place that make it easy for you to do this. If you see any irregular or unauthorized activity, please contact us immediately. We will work with you to quickly research the issue, close your compromised card, and issue you a new one. Please note: It is always important that we have your most up-to-date contact information on file, so that if we need to get in touch with you, we can.
While there is no guarantee that you won’t become a victim of identity theft, you can minimize your risk by making it more difficult for identity thieves to access your personal information.
Protect your Social Security number. Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary, and ask to use other types of identifiers.
Shred to minimize mail fraud. Always shred your receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, bank statements, expired charge cards that you’re discarding, and credit offers you get in the mail.
Be careful when using the Internet. The Internet can give you access to information, entertainment, financial offers, and countless other services but at the same time, it can leave you vulnerable to cyber crime, online scammers, identity thieves and more. It’s worth it to invest in a good anti-virus software such as Norton™, McAfee® or Kaspersky™. These will also help protect against malware.
Select complex passwords. Create a unique password for all of your online accounts, and avoid using passwords that contain information like your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers. Combinations of letters, numbers, and special characters make the strongest passwords. It’s also a good practice to change your password regularly.
Verify a source before sharing information. Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or on the Internet unless you’ve initiated the contact and are sure you know who you’re dealing with. Identity thieves may pose as representatives of financial institutions, businesses, and even government agencies to get people to reveal their Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, account numbers, and other identifying information.
If you haven’t already, enroll in our Identity Theft Recovery Program. This program helps you get your identify restored in the event that it is stolen. If you detect fraudulent activity and you are enrolled in this service, all you need to do is contact us and we will refer you to a personal Recovery Advocate. Click here for more information.
For more tips on how you can best protect yourself from identity theft, click here. And for credit report resources, click here. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call us at 860.513.5000 or 800.526.6933 or stop by any office to speak with a member service representative.
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As we close the first half of the year, I want to take some time to not only recap our successes but to also say thank you! Thank you for banking with us, thank you for believing in us and supporting us, and thank you for continuing to refer your friends and family to us. We are grateful for the opportunity to work with you and will continue to look for ways to improve your banking experience.
We’re always evaluating how we can better serve you. We are all about accessibility so whether you’re banking in a branch, over the phone, online or via our mobile app, our goal is to make it easy for you to do business with us. We’ve made many behind the scenes adjustments and upgrades, as well as ones that are directly visible to you, such as our e-Banking upgrade. We are especially excited about this upgrade because you now have the ability to reset your password at any time if you become locked out, and the ability to reset or unlock security questions by requesting a by-pass code 24/7 instead of having to contact us by phone. For more information about this upgrade, please click here.
We also added a loan sales center to make it easier for you to borrow from us. And the best part is, you never need to leave your house! You can do everything online, including signing the paperwork. We’ve even found ways to save you time when you visit a branch for a loan. Visit our Virtual Branch in either the New Britain or East Windsor locations to talk to a live representative from our loan sales center. This provides you an alternative to waiting for someone in the branch.
Coming soon, you will also see an upgraded mobile app, where your e-Deposits are processed in real time. So as soon as you electronically deposit your check, you will have accessibility to the funds. Upgrading our technology so that you can transact and interact anytime and anyplace through multiple delivery channels is very important to us.
I say it over an over again, but service is and will always be a top priority. We are committed to building strong relationships, which is why we developed our First Choice Checking account that offers 4.99% APY on checking balances up to $10,000 when terms of the account are met. The intent of this account is to build stronger relationships with you. We want to be the first place you think of for all your financial needs, and now even your insurance needs. We recently introduced a fully functional insurance agency, Nutmeg State Insurance Benefits, which makes shopping for insurance easier than ever. You can get quotes for everything from auto, home, life, accident, pet, legal and much more. Click here to visit our Web site and learn more about both of these new services.
We are always striving to provide you with the best value and service with complete confidence. We’re progressive and will always look to stay ahead of trends in order to bring you an exceptional banking experience. We continue to make substantial progress in transforming Nutmeg into the premier financial institution in Connecticut.
We measure our success by how well we are able to meet your needs, and our plan is to continue to make a beneficial impact on your financial life.
Thank you for your continued support!
President and CEO
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We have great news! Not only do we have a checking account that offers cash back rewards and ATM fee rebates, but coming very soon, we will introduce a checking account that pays 4.99% APY!
A few years ago we introduced a More-Than-Free Checking account. We knew that free checking accounts were becoming less common and more and more banks were increasing minimum balances and charging fees. Not only did we seek to offer a free checking account, but we decided to pay our members to use it by giving them ATM rebates up to $10 each month and 50¢ cash back on qualified debit card purchases up to $15 per month. All this with ZERO monthly service charges or maintenance fees, and no minimum balance requirements!
Since introducing our More-Than-Free Checking account, we’ve enrolled over 3,500 members and on average refund $7.00 per month per member. It’s a great account with excellent perks and I encourage all of you to click here to find out more.
We’re always looking for ways to reward those who use us for all of their banking needs, which is why we’re going one step further. This summer we’re introducing our 1st Choice Checking account that pays 4.99% APY on checking account balances when the easy qualifications of the account are met. The account also offers other perks such as:
- 0.25% APY increase on new and renewed certificates
- 0.50% APR discount on consumer loans
And of course there are no monthly service charges or maintenance fees, and no minimum balance requirements! Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks!
Credit unions have become known for free checking, and as you can see, we’re determined to continue to exceed expectations. In fact, a recent Bankrate survey reports that the percentage of free checking accounts at banks has dropped from 65 percent to just 39 percent from 2010 to 2012. More banks are charging fees on checking accounts now that they face more pressure on both revenue and cost.
We are a community financial institution with an understanding of our members and their financial needs. Our goal is to build a relationship with those who bank with us. We want our members to use all our products and services and think of us any time they need a loan or just a better way to bank. We’re better than big banks for a lot of reasons. We offer the same array of services, from online bill pay and electronic deposits to instant issue debit cards, mortgages, auto loans and credit cards, at much lower costs than big banks. Our fees are also substantially lower and we don’t make our members feel as though they are being nickeled and dimed.
We want to make sure we are always finding ways to improve our members’ financial lives! We appreciate the opportunity to serve our members and the community as a whole. I encourage you to feel free to reach out to me anytime.
President and CEO
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We understand that switching your bank account can be time consuming and tedious. We also understand that there are many factors to consider and that many are reluctant to move because they think the process is too difficult. It’s time to stop sticking with the status quo. Switching doesn’t have to be a painful and arduous process, especially when you have us to help. Here are some easy steps to follow:
Do your research.
Many opt to keep their accounts at a big bank because they don’t fully understand the benefits of banking locally. Top things consumers look for include: 24/7 access through online banking, ATM fee rebates or access to ATMs across the country, low fees and great service. And here’s what they most likely don’t know about us:
- We offer the same array of services, from online bill payment to debit and credit cards, at much lower cost than big banks.
- Our fees are substantially lower than at big banks.
- We offer, on average, better rates on savings and better rates and terms on credit cards and other loans.
- We not only offer ATM fee rebates, but we give you access to over 40,000 free ATMs across the country.
Switching is actually easy.
You just need to be organized. Make a list of everything you need to switch. This includes:
- Determining what automatic payments you have coming out of your account.
- Informing your Human Resources Department that you are changing your direct deposit. Usually all you need to do is provide them with a voided check.
- Starting to write all checks from your new account or setting up your new electronic bill payments one bill at a time as they arrive for payment. This begins the process of turning your new account into your primary one.
- Updating your checking account information for any linked online accounts, such as credit cards or money transfer accounts (like PayPal).
Keep your old account open for as long as you need to ensure checks and other payments clear.
There’s no rush to close your old account or move all your money. You don’t want any checks or automatic payments to bounce. It may even be a good idea to leave some money in the old account and wait an extra month before you close it just to make sure you didn’t forget anything.
Close your old account only when you’re sure that all outstanding checks and scheduled payments have cleared.
Simply contact the bank by e-mail, phone, mail, or in person and let them know you’d like to close your account. The bank will forward any remaining funds.
Make it even easier on yourself, and use our Switch Kit.
We offer a Switch Kit that explains how to switch, and we have letters and forms that can be used to close old accounts, change direct deposit and move automatic account withdrawals. We can basically do all of the moving for you so that no mistakes are made.
There is no doubt that switching your financial institution takes some work, but it’s not as difficult as it seems. So if you haven’t already, it’s time to switch all of your accounts to Nutmeg today!
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Buying a car can be overwhelming. Once you decide on a make, model and year, you have to decide on options, and even then, you’re still not done. You have to negotiate for the best possible price and then decide on how to pay. With that in mind, here are some tips for making the car buying process as easy as possible.
Let us get you pre-approved.
Before you even start looking, call us and get pre-approved for your loan. Not only do we offer the lowest rates around, but this keeps the negotiations at the dealership simpler and removes some of the stress. It also ensures you don’t get taken in by 0% APR offers. Typically, dealers can offer 0% APR because manufacturers run factory-to-dealer cash incentive programs to encourage sales, so the dealership passes the savings along in the form of a 0% APR loan. Most times, however, a 0% financing offer may not be your best option, which is why it is always important to calculate which alternative is better. Additionally, as a result of slow auto sales, manufacturers have been offering larger than usual consumer rebates and secret factory-to-dealer cash incentives to sell cars.
Find your trade-in value.
It’s important to know how much your current car is worth. Many times dealers will give you extra discounts on your new car and then make up for it by giving you less for your trade-in. Knowing the value of your current car before you go shopping, helps avoid this. Web sites such as Kelly Blue Book (www.kbb.com) and NADA (www.nadaguides.com) will give you an idea of your car’s worth. The value will be based on different factors such as the age of the vehicle, mileage, condition and other options. On these sites, you’ll want to focus on the wholesale or trade-in value; the retail value is what you would pay for the car at a dealership.
Get competing price quotes before buying.
Once you find what you want, shop around to make sure you are getting the best possible price. Tell the dealer the exact make, model and options you want and ask for their lowest out-the-door price. Don’t discuss trade-in or financing terms at this point. It’s OK to let them know that you are shopping around and will go with the dealer who offers you the best price. Or we can do the work for you! Our free Carcierge Auto Buying Service can help you purchase a vehicle on your terms. We literally tackle the challenge of finding the ideal car on your behalf. This helps eliminate the high pressure of the negotiation process while getting you everything you want.
Final thoughts to keep in mind.
- Don’t negotiate around a monthly payment. This gives a salesperson too much room to manipulate figures to the dealer’s advantage, especially if you have a trade-in.
- Don’t buy unnecessary extras. This includes things like corrosion protection, paint sealant, fabric protection, and window etching of the VIN. You usually don’t need these services or can get them for less money later.
- Don’t drive the car home before the financial paperwork is completed. This can result in issues with the terms of the financing.
- Do be prepared to walk out if you don’t feel comfortable with the negotiations or treatment. Sometimes, your willingness to leave is your most effective negotiating tool.
Buying a car doesn’t need to be painful, especially when you follow these easy steps!
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Many aren’t aware of this, but your credit score can affect everything from whether or not you are able to get a loan and how high your interest rate will be, to your ability to get car insurance, a job, or even rent an apartment. Lenders can use one of many different credit-scoring models to determine your credit worthiness. Different models can produce different scores. Below are some tips on how credit scores are determined and how to maintain a good score.
What you need to know about your credit score
Your credit score is a tool used by creditors to determine your ability to repay your debt. Scores range from 300 to 850 with the vast majority of people having scores between 600 and 800. Your credit score is calculated based on factors such as payment history, outstanding debt, length of credit history and number of inquiries.
You can repair bad credit!
Life is unpredictable and situations can arise that inhibit you from paying your bills on time. Unfortunately, this could cause your credit score to suffer. The good news is it can be fixed.
- Pay your bills on time.
- Reduce the amount of debt you owe.
- Keep balances low on credit cards and other revolving credit.
- Pay off debt rather than moving it around.
- Don’t close unused credit cards as a short-term strategy to raise your score.
- Don’t open new credit cards that you don’t need, just to increase your available credit.
- If you have missed payments, get current and stay current.
A wide variety of misconceptions float around about what you should and shouldn’t do to manage your credit. It is important to keep the following in mind:
- Your score will drop if you check your credit – It won’t.
- Credit bureaus know your income – They don’t!
- Credit repair companies can fix your credit – They can’t – They only make it worse.
- Paying off credit cards and closing the accounts will help your score – It doesn’t!
- The credit agencies use the same criteria for determining a credit score – They don’t.
Check your credit report often
Your credit report contains the data used to calculate your score and you want to ensure it is accurate. In particular, check to make sure that there are no late payments incorrectly listed for any of your accounts and that the amounts owed for each of your open accounts is correct. If you find errors on any of your reports, dispute them with the credit bureau and reporting agency. You can get a free credit report three times a year – One from each credit reporting agency – Transunion, Equifax and Experian. Just visit annualcreditreport.com – freecreditreport.com is NOT free!
Understanding your credit score and what factors impact it, managing and taking responsibility for your debt and fixing errors in your credit history (if they exist) will help you maintain a good credit standing.
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Did you start the New Year off with plans to pay down your debt, save money or get on the right financial track? Have you lost your way?
Here are a few easy tips to help you with your financial goals.
Make Small, Manageable Goals
One reason why we lose focus on our financial resolutions is because we end up making them harder than they need to be. If your goals are unattainable, it will be difficult to stick with a plan to achieve them. Focus on making several small, short, achievable financial goals. By setting smaller goals and achieving them one at a time, you’re more likely to stay on track.
Stay on Top of Your Credit
It’s federal law that all three major credit reporting agencies give you a free copy of your credit report each year and provide a process through which you can resolve errors. To obtain that, you just need to visit annualcreditreport.com – freecreditreport.com is NOT free! It’s important that you get to know what is reported on your credit report and dispute any inaccuracies to make sure what’s being reported is correct.
Understand What Your Debt Is Really Costing You
High interest rates make it nearly impossible to pay down the principle of your debt especially if you’re just making minimum payments. You can make debt more manageable by consolidating you’re credit cards and loans. We have many options for you to do this- from our low APR VISA® Credit Card to our Moneyline of Credit. Regardless of how you pay down your debt, you need to know what it’s costing you. Paying only the minimum amount each month will keep you on the credit hook and it could potentially cost you thousands of dollars in interest.
Get on a Savings Kick
Make saving money fun! Participate in our 52-week savings challenge. Week 1 save $1, week 2 save $2, week 3 save $3 and so on. The largest deposit you will have to make is $52 and when the year is over you will have $1,378. It’s not a ton of money, but it’s something. At the end of the year, you can use the money for holiday gifts, a vacation, a large purchase, or you can leave it there, and restart the challenge in the New Year. Go into any one of our branch locations and ask to open a Savings Challenge Account. You can also open this account online through our website!
You can do this. Stay focused. Sometimes you may get off track with your goals. If you find this happening, sit down and think about what you really want to do and what you need to do to get to that point.
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John Holt : January 21, 2014 4:58 pm : President's Blog
Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a wonderful 2013 and you’re all ready for 2014! I’m excited about what we have in store for our members in 2014, but before I tell you about our plans, I want to re-cap what we did for you in 2013 to maximize your member benefit.
2013 was a record year for the credit union in many areas! Our net income was $2.6 million even with economic challenges, NCUA assessments, and the overall dismal job growth in the state of Connecticut. We welcomed over 4,300 new members to our family, and as of the end of the year, our total membership was at a record high of 33,000 members. Our loan portfolio grew by about 5% to just over $249 million and deposits grew by a modest 2% to $307 million even with interest rates at historically low levels. Our loan portfolio continues to grow as we focus on being the premier auto loan lender in the state, adding business loans to our portfolio and continuing to be a leader in real estate lending. Our core deposit growth (checking and savings products) continues to show impressive growth at over 5% as we aggressively marketed our “More Than Free Checking” account to those individuals who bank with the “big” financial institutions like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Webster. This checking account is free and offers cash back rewards when members have direct deposit, an electronic statement and make 15 debit transactions a month. We remain one of the strongest credit unions in the state of Connecticut if not in the country with our capital ratio standing at about 13%. This number signifies our financial strength and is well above the minimum required 7%.
With our focus being on convenience and experience for our members, in 2013, we added two new branch locations – one in the Cromwell Walmart and the other in the Bristol Walmart Neighborhood Market, totaling 9 branch locations throughout the area. We also added 9 new FREE ATMs bringing our personal ATM network to 21. This is in addition to over 40,000 FREE ATMs we offer throughout the United States through our partnership with the SUM and CO-OP networks. Another convenience was the addition of instant issue debit cards. All 9 of our branch locations can now instantly issue a new debit card or replace a lost or stolen card while you wait. Our loan process has also never been easier. If you can’t make it to a branch to get a loan, you can apply for a loan online or call our Contact Center. Once we process the application, we will send the loan documents to your e-mail address for an electronic signature. After that, the money is placed into your Nutmeg account – it’s as simple as that!
Technology is important to our future and will allow us to provide you with quick and easy access to your account information in a safe and secure manner. Additionally, our goal is to have redundant systems in place in case of a natural disaster or an unexpected failure of essential IT equipment. With our combined investments in this area in 2013 and planned investments in 2014, we will be in a place to have a strong network that provides you with the reliability and speed you expect. Additionally, in 2014, we are planning a major upgrade and overhaul to our Mobile Banking app and online banking portal. We are leveraging technology to deliver tangible solutions that we are confident you will use over and over again. We want it to become an integral part of how you manage your financial life.
We will also persist in providing exceptional service at every point of interaction. I say it over and over again, but member service is and will always be a top priority. In fact, I am so passionate about this that you now have the ability to e-mail me directly if an issue isn’t resolved to your satisfaction. My e-mail address is posted on our Web site within my CEO Corner. We continue to seek your feedback on how we are doing, and use a mystery shopper program that evaluates how our frontline staff interacts with you; some of our members are even involved with this program! In 2014, we will send you more frequent membership questionnaires to gauge your level of satisfaction. I encourage you to provide your feedback to us whether positive or negative.
I would like to thank the employees and our Board of Directors for their hard work and dedication. More importantly, I would like to thank you for your continued support and trust in us. Nutmeg had a busy 2013 and we have an even busier 2014.
Thank you for banking with us!
President and CEO
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