Send Money in Minutes with Zelle

Table group paying bill

You and your buddies have just finished a wonderful meal at the local sports bar, tossed back a few cold ones and are shooting the breeze while talking smack about the rival team. Your team comes out on top, and all is right with your world.

Then comes the check.

The leader of your pack reaches for it, and carefully adds the tip and divides the cost of the night’s feast evenly among you and your friends. He’ll pay the bill with his credit card, and everyone else will pay their share back to him.

But who actually carries cash on them these days? Not you!

So, you offer to zap him the funds via PayPal or Venmo, but he requests payment by Zelle, a peer-to-peer payment service now offered by many financial institutions.

According to its website, “Zelle is an easy way to send money directly between almost any U.S. bank account typically within minutes. With just an email address or a mobile phone number, you can quickly, safely and easily send and receive money with more people, regardless of where they bank.”

How does Zelle work?

Users can either download the Zelle app or enroll via their credit union’s mobile banking app, if it offers Zelle.

Participating financial institutions can be found on the Zelle website.

To send money, users only need the recipient’s email address or mobile phone number.

If recipients are enrolled in Zelle, the funds will transfer directly into their credit union or bank account. Recipients who have not enrolled in Zelle will get an email or text notification of how to enroll in Zelle to safely receive their money.

“If they’ve enabled Zelle on their bank’s website or app, the money just goes into their bank account, thanks to its ties with the banks,” according to PCMag.  “If not, there’s a 1-to-3-day wait period after they enroll into Zelle, for security purposes.”

Zelle can be used anywhere in the United States as long as either the sender or recipient has access to Zelle through their financial institution.

Is there a fee?

While Venmo charges 25 cents per transaction, Zelle does not charge any fees for money transfers. Your bank or credit union may charge a usage fee.

How much can you send?

According to Zelle’s website, the banks or credit unions that offer Zelle determine sending limits. If your bank or credit union does not yet offer Zelle, the weekly sending limit is $500.  Requests to increase or decrease send limits are not permitted.

How safe is Zelle?

Only trusted recipients (family, friends, babysitter, roommate, cleaning person) should be paid using Zelle. According to its website, senders are not protected if they pay repcients for goods or services they do not receive or are dissatisfied with, such as crooked online auctions where merchandise is never received.

Online safety is always a concern, and Finder.com says, “Because Zelle is integrated into your existing bank’s website or app, if you’re satisfied with your current bank’s security and encryption, that same protection is extended to cover Zelle transactions. Zelle’s standalone app is backed by Early Warning Systems, a risk-management company that uses mobile identity authentication and advanced monitoring to ensure that your money is secure.”

Next time you need to pay your share of the dinner bill, utility bill or even rent, tap Zelle for a quick, seamless transaction.

Your turn: Have you tried Zelle yet? Tell us about it in the comments.

PRESS RELEASE Christeena Carson Named Branch Manager for the Yazoo City Branch

Press Release

Friday, August 14, 2020

Vicksburg, Miss. – – Mutual Credit Union is pleased to announce the promotion of Christeena Carson to branch manager of the Yazoo City, MS branch effective July 20, 2020. Christeena began her career at Mutual in 2013 as a teller supervisor. In 2015, she was promoted to financial services representative while also obtaining her certification as a credit union financial counselor through the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). Christeena is active in the Boys and Girls Club of Yazoo City, the Yazoo County Health Network, the Yazoo City Housing Authority, and is a community relations board member for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Christeena brings with her sixteen years of customer service experience to the members of Mutual Credit Union. She continues to go above and beyond in everything that she does. Michael Mathews, President of Mutual Credit Union stated, “Christeena has proven herself over the last several years while taking on additional responsibilities within the branch. I am excited to see her lead our Yazoo City location.”

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For more information about Mutual Credit Union, please follow this link to our webpage. For additional questions, please contact the marketing department at marketing@mutualcu.org or by calling (601) 636-7523 ext. 1226.

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The Back-to-School Guide for These Unconventional Times

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Back-to-school season is traditionally marked by a run on discounted pencils, overcrowded malls and lots of nail-biting nerves about new teachers. But this year, the back-to-school season is entirely different. Forget the crowds and a race to find the hottest-selling backpack. This year, it’s all about the trendiest face masks and getting ready for a school year that promises to be unlike any other. And for a child, that can be more than a little frightening.

As with every transition, proper mindset and preparation is key to smoothing out the inevitable bumps and hurdles. Whether your school district is starting off the year exclusively with distance learning, going back to in-person learning five days a week or they’ve settled on something in between, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s our complete guide to helping you prepare your child for the new school year in these unconventional times.

Talk to your child about what to expect

The more your child knows about the dynamics of the upcoming school year, the better off they’ll be. As the situation evolves, and you learn more details about the year’s schooling, speak to your child about what to expect. If your school’s administration has decided to continue in-person instruction with daily temperature checks, let your child know to expect them. If the school year will start off with remote learning and tentative plans for returning to in-person instruction in January, share this information with your child. The more your child knows, the easier it will be for them to handle changes as events unfold.

Create a back-from-school protocol to keep your home safe

If your child will be going to school full-time, or even partially, it’s important to establish a sanitizing ritual for them to adhere to when they walk through the front door after each day of school.

“When children return from school, they should immediately sanitize their hands,” advises board-certified pediatrician, Dr. Candice W. Jones. “Once at home, at the very least, they should remove clothes/shoes and place them in the laundry, or in a designated safe place for disinfecting. A shower would be great, but is not absolutely necessary.”

Talk to your child about this daily disinfecting routine, and run a practice round or two to make it easier to remember when school starts.

 Zooming in on remote schooling

Many states and school districts have announced the continuation of distance learning for the start of the new school year. If the idea of sitting your child down in front of the screen for hours at a time again makes your head spin, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Dr. Linda Carling, an associate research scientist at Johns Hopkins University, shares these tips for helping children succeed at remote learning:

  • Encourage movement. Squeeze in some stretching breaks throughout the school day and pencil in larger chunks of time for longer exercises, like a bike ride around the block. If your child finds it particularly difficult to sit still for long periods of time, set up a tablet or laptop on a raised surface and have your child stand through their classes.
  • Reduce distractions. Create a distraction-free zone for your child’s learning to help boost their focus. Noise-canceling headphones can also be helpful to drown out auditory distractions.
  • Adjust your schedule as needed.  Many younger children need constant or intermittent guidance to help them with their remote learning. If possible, adjust your own schedule so you can be on hand to help your child as necessary.
  • Use a checklist for focus. A basic visual checklist of tasks that need to be completed can help children focus. Draw up the checklist with your child at the beginning of each day and have them cross off tasks as they’re completed.
  • Provide immediate positive feedback. Each time your child successfully follows instructions, provide immediate and positive feedback. You can keep it small, from a sticker on their work assignment or words of praise to an extra 15 minutes of play before bedtime.

Help your child prepare for face mask wearing while at school

School supply lists are looking very different this year, with “face masks” penciled in right next to “erasers” and “glue.” But having your child wear a mask for hours on end while sitting through school can sound next to impossible.

To help your child prepare for face mask wearing while at school, it’s best to model positivity.

It’s no secret that kids mimic the adults in their lives. Though you may find it difficult to wear a mask yourself, you can help your child build up a positive attitude about mask-wearing by talking about how your mask is keeping you and others safe, as well as how the discomfort is a small price to pay for safety.

It’s also a good idea to practice mask-wearing at home. This will serve the dual purpose of getting your child accustomed to wearing a mask, and help to ensure your child is wearing it correctly before school starts. If your child is particularly resistant to wearing a mask, you may want to employ some strategies, like having them wear the mask for the length of their favorite song, or playing dress-up as a doctor or your child’s favorite superhero.

For the sensory child, face masks can be a nightmare. Make it easier by finding the style that is most comfortable for your child, whether that’s a classic ear-loop mask, a bandanna style covering, or a neck gaiter. Extenders or button headbands can also be a welcome relief for irritated ears.

Finally, make masks fun again by choosing a child-friendly pattern. You can go with these adorable bear face masks from Amazon, have your child design their own mask on Etsy,  choose an extra breathable and lightweight mask from Athleta or pick out a mask featuring your child’s favorite movie character from Disney.

Get the school year off to a great start with these preparatory tips for you and your child.

Your Turn: How are you preparing for the upcoming school year? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

Save Money As A Family: 3 Ways To Teach Kids Good Savings Habits

save-money-as-a-familyWith the average American household holding almost $100,000 in debt, there are too many families in the United States struggling to keep up financially.

The best way to help your kids avoid the debt and bad habits common to many U.S. adults today is to start teaching them good habits now. If your kids start learning ways to save money while young, those good habits are more likely to stick with them when they’re older and have easier access to credit cards and loans.

Below are three creative ways you can embrace better spending habits together as a family. Some suggestions may be more appropriate for older kids than younger, but most could be applied with some variation for kids of different ages.

Here are 3 creative ways to teach good savings habits from an early age:

 

1. Make any allowance you provide tied to chores.

The link between hard work and money earned is a good lesson to learn early. Kids are less likely to take the money they receive for granted if they have to earn it.

If you already require certain chores without pay, there’s no need to change that. But in just about any home, there’s always more to be done. Make up a list of the chores not already covered, pick a price for each based on the relative amount of work involved, and post it where your kids can see the extra earning opportunities.

Bonus tip: To teach good savings habits, give kids a choice between taking their money right away in cash, or letting you hold onto it for them until they reach a certain amount. If they choose the latter, you can throw in a bonus few bucks to teach them the value of saving and demonstrate the way interest-bearing savings accounts work.

 

2. Work on creating a family budget together.

Bring the kids into the budgeting process. They might find it tedious, and perhaps a bit dull, but it will help them understand why they don’t always get everything they ask for. Be willing to bring up the family budget and your weekly spending limit anytime they ask for a new toy or a meal out, so they start to get the idea that the thought needs to be applied to every spending decision.

You can use crafts to help younger kids understand the concept. Use paper plates to represent the whole budget, and divide it into slices to represent the different categories your family spends the most on. Then explain how your goal is to make certain slices smaller.

Bonus tip: Enlist them to help you make the grocery list and talk about the different costs of the items you usually buy and how they fit in (or don’t fit in) to the family budget. Review menus together at the house before you go out and have the same discussion. Talk about trade-offs: what else can you buy later if you choose to skip the appetizer and sodas now?

3. Encourage kids to a pick a specific goal to work towards.

Whether it’s a new bike, an especially coveted new toy, or a party with friends, having something specific to work towards is a powerful savings incentive. A reminder of this goal can be helpful in the discussions you have around numbers one and two.

Bonus tip: Look for opportunities to point out choices your kids can make that could lead to more savings. If a birthday’s coming up and they’re pushing for an ice cream cake, point out how much they would save by making a cake at home and offer to add the extra to their savings if they choose that option instead.

Not only will your family benefit by implementing these ways to save money together, but it presents opportunities to spend more time together as well.

Source: KASASA

Your Complete Guide to Using Your Credit Cards

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Q: I’d love to improve my credit score, but I can’t get ahead of my monthly payments. I also find that my spending gets out of control when I’m paying with plastic. How do I use my credit cards responsibly?

A: Using your credit cards responsibly is a great way to boost your credit score and your financial wellness. Unfortunately, though, credit card issuers make it challenging to stay ahead of monthly payments and easy to fall into debt with credit card purchases. No worries, though; Mutual Credit Union is here to help!

Here’s all you need to know about responsible credit card usage.

Refresh your credit card knowledge

Understanding the way a credit card works can help the cardholder use it responsibly.

A credit card is a revolving line of credit allowing the cardholder to make charges at any time, up to a specific limit. Each time the cardholder swipes their card, the credit card issuer is lending them the money so they can make the purchase. Unlike a loan, though, the credit card account has no fixed term. Instead, the cardholder will need to make payments toward the balance each month until the balance is paid off in full. At the end of each billing cycle, the cardholder can choose to make just the minimum required payment, pay off the balance in full or make a payment of any size that falls between these two amounts.

Credit cards tend to have high interest rates relative to other kinds of loans. The most recent data  shows the average industry rate on new credit cards is 13.15% APR (annual percentage rate) and the average credit union rate on new credit cards is 11.54% APR.

Pay bills in full, on time

The best way to keep a score high is to pay credit card bills in full each month — and on time. This has multiple benefits:

  • Build credit — Using credit responsibly builds up your credit history, which makes it easier and more affordable to secure a loan in the future.
  • Skip the interest — Paying credit card bills in full and on time each month lets the cardholder avoid the card’s interest charges completely.
  • Stay out of debt — Paying bills in full each month helps prevent the consumer from falling into the cycle of endless minimum payments, high interest accruals and a whirlpool of debt.
  • Avoid late fees — Late fees and other penalties for missed payments can get expensive quickly. Avoid them by paying bills on time each month.
  • Enjoy rewards — Healthy credit card habits are often generously rewarded through the credit card issuer with airline miles, reward points and other fun benefits.

Tip: Using a credit card primarily for purchases you can already afford makes it easier to pay off the entire bill each month.

Brush up on billing

There are several important terms to be familiar with for staying on top of credit card billing.

A credit card billing cycle is the period of time between subsequent credit card billings. It can vary from 20 to 45 days, depending on the credit card issuer. Within that timeframe, purchases, credits and any fees or finance charges will be added to and subtracted from the cardholder’s account.

When the billing cycle ends, the cardholder will be billed for the remaining balance, which will be reflected in their credit card statement. The current dates and span of a credit card’s billing cycle should be clearly visible on the bill.

Tip: It’s important to know when your billing cycle opens and closes each month to help you keep on top of your monthly payments.

Credit card bills will also show a payment due date, which tends to be approximately 20 days after the end of a billing cycle. The timeframe between when the billing cycle ends and its payment due date is known as the grace period. When the grace period is over and the payment due date passes, the payment is overdue and will be subject to penalties and interest charges.

Tip: To ensure a payment is never overdue, it’s best to schedule a time for making your credit card payments each month, ideally during the grace period and before the payment due date. This way, you’ll avoid interest charges and penalties and keep your score high. Allow a minimum of one week for the payment to process.

Spend smartly

Credit cards can easily turn into spending traps if the cardholder is not careful. Following these dos and don’ts of credit card spending can help you stick to your budget even when paying with plastic.

Do:

  •  When making a purchase, treat your credit card like cash.
  • Remember that credit card transactions are mini loans.
  • Pay for purchases within your regular budget.
  • Decrease your reliance on credit cards by building an emergency fund.

Don’t:

  •  Use your credit card as if it provides you with access to extra income.
  • Use credit to justify extravagant purchases.
  • Neglect to put money into savings because you have access to a credit card.

Using credit cards responsibly can help you build and maintain an excellent credit score, which will make it easier to secure affordable long-term loans in the future.

Your Turn: How do you use your credit cards responsibly while keeping your score high? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

COVID-19 is Causing a Coin Shortage

art.coinshortage.coins-4420008_1920 The COVID-19 Global pandemic caused an initial panic leaving store shelves empty of face masks and toilet paper. Hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, paper towels and meat followed quickly in what was fast becoming routine for life during COVID-19. And now, the latest commodity to run in short supply is coins.

Got change? Many financial institutions, retailers and private citizens don’t.

Although we are increasingly becoming a cashless society, coins play an integral role in day-to-day commerce, and a dearth in their supply can severely impact small businesses that  are already struggling to survive. There’s more than just pocket change at stake here, and if things don’t improve soon, the effect on the economy can be critical and long-lasting.

Here’s what you need to know about the most recent shortage caused by COVID-19.

What triggered the shortage?

The jangling coins in your wallet were stricken in the U.S. Mint. The Federal Reserve distributes these coins to financial institutions across the country. From there, the coins are purchased by retailers or private citizens, enter the economy and begin circulating. But now, with the pandemic upending the economy and the Mint operating at partial capacity, this chain was disrupted for months at a time.

“The COVID‐19 pandemic has significantly disrupted the supply chain and normal circulation patterns for U.S. coin,” according to a statement  issued by the Federal Reserve. “In the past few months, coin deposits from depository institutions to the Federal Reserve have declined significantly and the U.S. Mint’s production of coin also decreased due to measures put in place to protect its employees.”

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell added that the massive shift to online or contactless transactions has further disrupted the flow of coins through the economy.

Even now, as large segments of the country reopen, the supply of coins is failing to keep pace with demand. Many consumers still shop remotely and those who do shop in physical stores are wary of handling germ-infested dollars and coins and are opting for contactless payment instead.

 The response to the shortage

To help mitigate the fallout of the coin shortage, the Federal Reserve began to ration its coin distribution  on June 15, giving banks and credit unions only part of their requested orders. The total number of rationed coins each bank or credit union will receive is determined by the institution’s history of coin orders and the capacity of the U.S. Mint to fulfill the request. The Reserve has also encouraged banks and credit unions to order only the amount of coins they need to meet short-term member demand.

The Federal Reserve is working together with the Mint to ramp up production of new coins and to lift supply allocations in the near future.

The impact of the shortage on the economy

The severity of the shortage first came to light in mid-June, when banks in Tennessee were notified that they’d only receive a small portion of their weekly coin order from the Federal Reserve.

In a virtual hearing  on June 17, Rep. John Rose of Tennessee told Powell that the banks in his district, having received only part of their weekly coin order, would likely run out of change by the end of the week, or might need to round up or down if they run low.

“In a time when pennies are the difference between profitability and loss, it seems like it might be a bigger concern than the announcement from the Fed would indicate that it is,” Rose said.

The shortage can have devastating effects for retailers who won’t receive their complete requested orders of coins from their bank or credit union, Rose said. Without the means to provide adequate change for their customers, small business owners can be forced to round up or down, leading to significant losses in revenue and in customers.

A temporary shortage

The Federal Reserve believes the coin shortage is only temporary and that it will resolve itself in the near future.

“As the economy reopens, we’re seeing coins begin to move around again,” Powell said.

However, the dearth in available coins is still a reality that can be felt in all sectors of the economy. As a consumer, this means that Mutual Credit Union may be limited in filling your complete request for coins in the future.  You may also feel the impact of the shortage when paying cash at brick and mortar stores; the clerk may not be able to provide you with accurate change.

Finally, if you have spare change lying around at home, we are calling out to you to bring and deposit your coins into the coin machine located at 1604 Cherry Street Vicksburg, MS. For members, this is a FREE service that deposits directly into your member account. If you are a visitor, there is a small fee. The U.S. Mint says, “The coin supply problem can be solved with each of us doing our part,” and you can help us close the gap between the coin supply and demand.

Your Turn: Have you felt the impact of the coin shortage? Tell us about it in the comments.

Mutual Credit Union Announces, Dianne Copes As The New Branch Manager Of the South Frontage Road Branch in Vicksburg, MS

Press Release

Friday, July 24, 2020

Vicksburg, Miss. – – Mutual Credit Union is pleased to announce the promotion of Dianne Copes to Branch Manager of the South Frontage Road Branch located in Vicksburg, MS effective July 1, 2020. Dianne began her career at Mutual in 2012 as the Branch Manager for the Yazoo City, MS Branch. She is a Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor.  She is also active in the Boys and Girls Club of Yazoo City, Relay for Life, Yazoo County Chamber of Commerce, and the Yazoo City Housing Authority. In 2017, she was awarded the Hero Award by the Yazoo Herald for her dedication and service to the community.  Dianne brings with her thirty-two years of banking and customer service experience to the members who frequent our South Frontage Road branch. She has proven invaluable to each community that she serves and to her fellow employees. Michael Mathews, President of Mutual Credit Union stated, “Dianne has excelled at leading our Yazoo City location since 2012, and I am thrilled to see her take on the new role here in Vicksburg.”

Dianne Copes Headshot

For more information about Mutual Credit Union please follow this link to our webpage. For additional questions, please contact the marketing department at marketing@mutualcu.org or by calling (601) 636-7523 ext. 1226.

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FREE Community SHRED Day – July 29th

PRESS RELEASE
Saturday, July 25, 2020

FREE Community Shred Day

(Vicksburg, MS): On Wednesday, July 29, 2020 the 1604 Cherry Street location of Mutual Credit Union will host a FREE Community SHRED DAY between the hours of 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. The community is welcome to bring any paper documents to be shredded on site. We have partnered with SHRED-IT of Jackson to provide this service.
Shredding important documents and paper protects important personal information from being compromised. By shredding paper down into smaller material, it can then be used within a recycle program which in turns helps to protect the environment.
For more information about Mutual Credit Union, please follow this link to our webpage. For additional questions, please contact the marketing department at marketing@mutualcu.org or by calling (601) 636-7523 ext. 1226.
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Shred Day Flyer 2020

Is It A Good Idea To Open A HELOC Now?

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If you’re looking for a large sum of money to use for a home improvement project, or the economic devastation of COVID-19 has left you in desperate need of cash, consider tapping into your home’s equity. One great way to do this is by opening a home equity line of credit, or a HELOC. Let’s take a closer look at HELOCs and why they can be an excellent option for cash-strapped homeowners in today’s financial climate.

What is a HELOC?

A HELOC is a revolving credit line allowing homeowners to borrow money against the equity of their home. The HELOC is like a second mortgage on a home; if the borrower owns the entire home, the HELOC is a primary mortgage.

Given that a HELOC is a line of credit and not a fixed loan, borrowers can withdraw money from the HELOC as needed rather than borrowing one lump sum. This allows for more freedom than a loan and is especially beneficial for borrowers who don’t know exactly how much money they’ll ultimately need to fund their venture.

Borrowers withdraw funds (aka “draws” or “advances”) from the HELOC during a set amount of time that is known as the “draw period,” which generally lasts 10 years. Some lenders place restrictions on HELOCs and require borrowers to withdraw a minimum amount of money each time they make a draw, regardless of need. Other restrictions include the requirements to keep a fixed amount of money outstanding, or to withdraw a specific sum when the HELOC is first established. [At Mutual Credit Union, we allow borrowers to ….]

How do I repay my HELOC?

Repayment of HELOCs varies, but is usually very flexible.

Many lenders collect interest-only payments during the draw period, with principal payments being strictly optional. Others require ongoing monthly payment toward both principal and interest.

When the draw period ends, some lenders will allow borrowers to renew the credit line and continue withdrawing money. Other lenders require borrowers to pay back the entire balance due, also known as a “balloon payment.” Still others allow borrowers to pay back the loan in monthly installments over another set amount of time, known as the “repayment period.” Repayment periods are generous, lasting as long as 20 years.

How can borrowers spend the money? 

While home improvement projects are popular uses for HELOCs, borrowers are free to spend the money however they please. Some other uses for HELOCs include debt consolidation, funding a wedding, adoption, dream vacation or the launch of a new business.

Is everyone eligible for a HELOC?

Like every loan and line of credit, HELOCs have eligibility requirements, which help lenders determine the applicant’s financial wellness and responsibility. Most notably, the borrower must have a minimal amount of equity in the home.

Lender requirements vary, but most homeowners will be eligible for a HELOC with a debt-to-income ratio that is 40% or less, a credit score of 620 or higher and a home assessment that stands at a minimum of 15% more than what is owed.

How much can I borrow with a HELOC?

HELOC amounts vary along with three criteria: the value of your home, the percentage of that value the lender allows you to borrow against and the outstanding amount on an existing mortgage.

To illustrate, if you have a $300,000 home with a mortgage balance of $175,000 and your lender allows you to borrow against 85% of your home’s value, multiply your home’s value by 85%, or 0.85. This will give you $255,000. Subtract the amount you still owe on your mortgage ($175,000), and you’ll have the maximum amount you can borrow using a HELOC, which is $80,000.

What are the disadvantages of a HELOC?
A HELOC is secured by your home’s equity, which places your home at risk of foreclosure if the HELOC is not repaid. Before opening a HELOC, it’s a good idea to run the numbers to get an idea of what your monthly payments will look like and whether you can easily afford to meet them.

Also, many lenders require the full payment of the HELOC after the draw period is over. This can prove to be challenging for many borrowers.

Finally, if you don’t plan to stay in your home for long, a HELOC may not be the right choice for you. When you sell your home, you’ll need to pay off the full balance of the HELOC. You may also need to pay a cancellation fee to the lender.

A HELOC can be a great option now

HELOCs have variable interest rates, which means the interest on the loan can fluctuate over the life of the loan, sometimes dramatically. This variable is based on a publicly available index, such as the U.S. Treasury Bill rate, and will rise or fall along with this index, though lenders will also add a margin of a few percentage points of their own.

The fallout of COVID-19 may impact the economy for months, or years, to come; however, there is a silver lining among the rising unemployment rates and bankrupt businesses: historically low interest rates. The average APR for fixed 30-year mortgages has hovered at the low 3% for months now, and experts predict it will continue falling. The low rates make it an excellent time to take out a HELOC with manageable payback terms.

The economic uncertainty the pandemic has generated also makes it a prime time to have extra cash available for any need that may arise.

Are you looking to tap into your home’s equity with a HELOC? Call, click, or stop by Mutual Credit Union today to get started. Our favorable rates, generous eligibility requirements, and easy terms, make a Mutual Credit Union HELOC a great choice.

Your Turn: How are you using your HELOC? Tell us about it in the comments.

Beware of Relay Theft

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Keyless entry is one of the most convenient features of newer cars. There’s no more fumbling for your keys when your arms are full of groceries or you’re toting a squirming toddler. Just press the “unlock” button to get inside and the “start” button to get the engine powered up, and your car will pick up the signals from your key fob.

Unfortunately, though, this user-friendly feature is also a favorite for car thieves. Security experts are warning of a relatively new scam centered on key fobs. In this scam, thieves use a simple device to pick up the signal from a vehicle’s key fob and use it to steal the car. What is very scary about this one is the fact that the fob can be safely hidden inside a car owner’s pocket or home while its signals are being hacked.

Here’s all you need to know about this scam and to learn how to protect your vehicle.

How it plays out

With keyless entry, the hotwiring car thief is a thing of the past.

The key fob scam, or “relay theft,” is frighteningly easy for people to pull off. Criminals purchase relay boxes, which are available on eBay and Amazon. They then use these devices to hijack the signal from a nearby key fob.

The boxes come in pairs, allowing the crooks to set up one box as close as possible to the probable location of the key fob, such as near a window or door to the car owner’s home. The second box is placed close to the car the criminal is trying to steal. The first box then reads the signal and “relays” it to the second box, tricking the car into registering the key fob as nearby. The thief can then unlock the car, start the engine and make off with the vehicle while the owner is oblivious to what is happening.

Keeping your key FOB safe

Thankfully, protecting your key fob signals from being hacked is easy. All you need is a little metal.

You can achieve this protection by securely wrapping your key fob in a small piece of aluminum foil. The foil will block the electromagnetic signals of the fob, making it impossible for a relay box to pick them up. A foil-wrapped key may look strange, but the key fob can be safely kept in a pocket when you’re out, and inside a kitchen drawer when you’re home, so no one has to know about it.

You can also choose to invest in a specially designed Faraday bag to keep your car safe. Retailing on Amazon for just a few dollars, these metal-lined pouches will block your fob’s signals from being read. There are also metal-lined key wallets on the market that serve the same purpose.

It’s best to test out the effectiveness of your signal blocker before using it for the long term. Wrap your key fob in foil or place it inside your Faraday bag or metal-lined wallet, stick it in your pocket and sit in the driver’s seat of your car. Try to start the vehicle. The car should not be able to detect the key fob. If it revs up as usual, the blocker is ineffective.

Protecting your car

If you’d rather not bother with foil and Faraday bags, you can also go the old-fashioned route and protect the car itself from possible theft.

One way to achieve this protection is through a steering-wheel lock. These locks work with actual keys that can’t be hacked. You won’t have a completely keyless entry and startup any longer, but it’s a small price to pay for the protection of your car. If a car thief hacks your key fob’s signal and starts the engine of your car, they won’t be able to drive off. The sight of the lock on your steering wheel can also serve as a deterrent for would-be thieves.

You can also protect your car from relay theft by keeping it out of sight and parking it in a garage.

If you own a pricier vehicle, it can also be worthwhile to invest in a security system.

Don’t let those scammers get your car! Take the precautions necessary to keep your key fob and your car safe from relay theft.

Your Turn: Do you own a car with “keyless entry”? How do you protect it from relay theft? Tell us about it in the comments.