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Help your teen get a job

Spring break is over and summer is around the corner. It’s not too early for your teenager to start looking for a summer job. Here are some tips for your teen and ways that you can help them find a job.

• Start looking now. As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm. Don’t wait until school ends to start looking for a job. A job search can take some time. Encourage your teen to start with limited hours now, if possible, and increase hours in the summer.

• Be prepared. As a parent, you can help in the job search by proofreading your teen’s resume and putting them through some mock interviews. If it’s hard for your teen to role-play with you, ask a family friend to step in as a mock interviewer.

• Pass on advice. As a parent, you’ve probably been through a few job interviews. Make sure to share good pointers on how to get a job: Dress professionally, show enthusiasm, and send a thank-you note.

• Network. If your teen is ready to hit the job market, start telling friends, co-workers and encourage your teen to do the same. Many job prospects are found by word-of-mouth.

Once your teen is getting those summer job paychecks, help them understand the importance of budgeting and saving. Mid American offers a number of youth accounts, including FirstStep and Freedom checking accounts, open to youth older than 13 who take a financial quiz.

Spring into action

Regular, preventative maintenance is important in keeping the value of your home. Springtime – a season of renewal – is a great time to do checkups and repairs. Regular checkups can also help save you costly emergency repairs.

Here are a few things for your spring maintenance list:

> Keep it cool – and hot. Schedule an annual check of your air conditioning unit to ensure it will run efficiently and effectively for the warm days ahead. While you’re at it, inspect your water heater, too, for leaks and corrosion.

> Take it out of the gutter. Inspect your gutters and keep them clean, especially if you have foliage hanging over your roof. Trapped moisture can cause damage to your home’s roof and walls. Check downspouts to ensure they are clear and pointing at least two feet away from foundation walls.

> Keep a good roof over your head. After rains, check for wet spots in ceilings and walls. Have a licensed professional inspect the roof after strong winds and storms, or if you notice cracked or buckling shingles.

> Keep water and pests out. Ensure doors and windows are well-sealed to keep your home cool in the summer and to keep water out to avoid mold growth and damage. Also look for any gaps and holes and seal them up to keep mice and insects from sharing your indoor space.

> Make it pretty. A good paint job doesn’t just add curb appeal. Chipped, cracked paint can leave wood exposed, which can cause rot. Pressure wash siding to give it a nice, clean look. Give your deck a good washing and apply a protective seal, too.

> Check the foliage. Out-of-control vines or branches too close to the house and siding can cause moisture and other problems.

Remember, in addition to helping you finance the purchase of your new home, Mid American makes available home equity loans and lines of credit that can be used to help with any home improvement ventures.

Take inventory

When was the last time you updated the inventory of your belongings to ensure you have adequate insurance coverage?

With a current inventory, you can be sure your belongings are properly insured for their value, in the event of theft or disaster.

Most basic home insurance policies have standard limits for big-ticket items such as electronics, jewelry, sporting equipment or art, according to the Kansas Insurance Department, but you’ll want to check with an insurance agent if you need additional or special coverage.

Several resources, from hard copy lists to smartphone apps, are available to make the inventory process easier. Here are three such resources:

• Printable inventory sheets at www.insureuonline.org/home_inventory_checklist.pdf
• The Insurance Information Institute’s free Know Your Stuff software, www.knowyourstuff.org
• The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ free smartphone app, myHome.Scr.APP.book, from iTunes or Google Play

Photographing or making a video of belongings is recommended. The NAIC has the following tips for creating an inventory for insurance purposes:
• Group possessions by logical categories, such as by room or item.
• Don’t forget infrequently used items, such as holiday decorations.
• Make copies of original sales receipts or appraisals.
• Write down model and serial numbers for electronics and other items.

Keep your inventory lists and supporting material in a safe deposit box. Mid American offers annual rentals of various-sized safe deposit boxes at its northeast and west branches in Wichita and in Larned.

Online, mobile banking improvements

By Jim Holt, President/CEO

 We are making great progress toward rolling out a new, more robust remote access system for our members in early fall.

It has been 20 years since we did a major conversion, so you can imagine how excited we are to get a far more efficient, easier-to-use system to deliver the services we provide to you. We have tried our best to keep up with technology advances and member demands with our existing system, but it is time for us to get a brand new, state-of-the-art foundation that will allow for continued growth.

Internally, we are calling our journey the Amazing Race. We have divided responsibilities among various staff teams, just as the contestants are organized on the TV show that inspired our concept. Conversions are major undertakings, so we are incorporating some fun adventures on our trek.

When we are finished with our Amazing Race – our ”go live” date is Sept. 3 – you will notice far improved ways of doing business with us. In particular, you will find that our virtual banking features will be far more user-friendly.

In visiting with other Kansas credit unions who converted to the same system, we have heard nothing but rave reviews about the system’s features. To keep up with accelerating technology, the system continues to be upgraded and enhanced with members in mind.

“We keep discovering more things that we can do,” said a staff member at one Wichita credit union.

The system will allow a broader range of electronic alert capabilities about activity on your accounts. You can customize when you want to be alerted – such as when your balance is below or above a certain dollar amount, when an item clears and more.

Other features include being able to see pending transactions on your account and customizing your account homepage with the options and features you use the most. We are sure many members will also appreciate the forgotten password feature, giving members the ability to retrieve or reset online access to their accounts.

Just as in the Amazing Race, we realize there will be challenges during this conversion, but we will provide user tips and assistance to help you maximize the advantages of our new system.

Mid American adds Lawrence branch

Mid American Credit Union, based in Wichita, has added a Lawrence branch through its recent merger with Jayhawk Federal Credit Union.

The merger gives Mid American Credit Union a presence in northeast Kansas, but more importantly it provides the members of the much smaller Jayhawk Federal Credit Union access to a broader range of services and products. Jayhawk Federal, formed in 1940 by a group of employees of the Lawrence Paper Co., had about $2 million in assets and more than 1,000 members.

Mid American – with four branches in Wichita and also in Larned and Arkansas City – has $225 million in assets.

“We have long had members in the area thanks to relationships with numerous auto dealers in northeast Kansas,” said Jim Holt, Mid American president/CEO, “but this merger allows us to bring a range of services to those members and new services to Jayhawk Federal.”

Travis Colibert, former manager of Mid American’s Arkansas City branch, is the manager of the Lawrence branch.

Mid American is a full-service financial institution, with products that include first and second mortgages and retirement and investment planning. Members also have online and mobile access to accounts.

Through a nationwide cooperative agreement, Mid American members can conduct financial transactions at more than 5,000 shared branches nationwide and have surcharge-free access to more than 30,000 ATMs.

Mid American Credit Union was established in 1936.

Ruling changes allowed IRA rollovers

Individuals with multiple individual retirement accounts, or IRAs, will have to be more careful now when moving money between their traditional IRAs. 

Starting as early as Jan. 1, 2015, anyone with an IRA will be allowed to make only one non-taxable rollover in a 12-month period to another or the same IRA, no matter how many IRAs a taxpayer has. 

The U.S. Tax Court made the new rollover ruling earlier this year, but the IRS is waiting until at least Jan. 1, 2015, to implement the ruling to give IRA owners and trustees time to adjust, according to an IRS announcement. The tax court ruling changes long-standing guidelines in the IRS Publication 590 that said a rollover from one IRA to another would not affect a rollover involving other IRAs of the same individual. 

The ruling doesn’t affect trustee-to-trustee transfers, as those transfers don’t count as a rollover because they don’t pass through a taxpayer’s hands. A rollover from a qualified retirement plan, such as a 401K plan, also doesn’t count.

Because the rollover ruling applies to a 12-month time period, and not any particular calendar year, taxpayers will have to be diligent when making rollover decisions, financial experts advise.

For more information about the new IRS guidelines on IRA rollovers, consult a tax professional or your accountant.

Holt wins top professional award from KCUA

Jim Holt, president/CEO of Mid American Credit Union since 2005, will be honored with the 2013 Henry Peterson Professional of the Year Award by the Kansas Credit Union Association. 

Holt received the award, given to a credit union professional for outstanding leadership and management abilities and for bettering Kansas credit unions, at the KCUA’s annual state convention in Wichita in April. 

Holt has been involved with the credit union industry for more than 40 years, starting as a stock boy at a Topeka credit union while attending Washburn University. He is a former lobbyist for the KCUA and former CEO of Mountain West Credit Union Association in Denver, and spent 14 years as a consulting attorney to credit unions in Kansas and the Kansas Department of Credit Unions. 

In the past year, he served as chairman of the KCU and one of its boards, helping the two organizations in efforts to strengthen credit union growth and management both statewide and nationally. Initiatives included creating a leadership development program and an innovation lab to share ideas for credit union growth, as well as a grassroots effort to educate lawmakers about the effects of a proposed federal income tax on not-for-profit credit unions. 

As Mid American’s top executive, he has overseen the credit union’s significant growth in membership and assets over the past nine years, including mergers with credit unions in Arkansas City and Lawrence.

Automated Calls SCAM ALERT

Members have reported receiving automated telephone calls claiming to be from Mid American Credit Union, which ask for personal or account information. Mid American does not use automated telephone calling systems, nor would we ever ask for any personal or account information from our members in this manner. These scam calls are an attempt to get you to reveal your account information. The best course of action if receive any such calls is to simply hang up.

This type of scam is typically generated in a random manner. Scammers know that by sending a large volume of calls that some will be received by actual credit union members. If you have any questions or are concerned that you might have revealed your account information to these scammers, please call our financial services department at 316-722-3921, ext. 202.

Accessing your equity

From Debbie Stang, Home Loan Officer

If your New Year’s resolutions include finding better ways to handle your debt or making some changes to your home, consider a home equity loan or line of credit.

Both options are based on providing you with access to the equity you’ve built up in your home. Equity is the difference between your home’s value and what you still owe on it. At Mid American, the value assessed to your home for property tax valuation is used as the market value. A home equity loan is a type of second mortgage, since you’re pledging your home as collateral.

You have a couple advantages when using equity to consolidate and pay off debt. Home equity loan rates are often considerably lower than the interest rate paid on unsecured debt. Interest paid on the home equity loan is generally tax deductible, as well. (Check with a professional tax adviser to see if this applies to you.) By combining debt, you’ll also lower what you spend each month on debt. To make your new year more financially stable, be disciplined enough to not take on any more debt.

Making home improvements can not only update your home, but can also increase the value of your home, in some cases. Be aware that kitchen and bath remodels generally add value, while upscale landscaping or invisible improvements, like new plumbing or HVAC systems, don’t.

If you don’t need all the money at once, consider a home equity line of credit. While giving you access to your pool of equity, you pay interest only on the money you actually borrow. This is an attractive option when you’re working on home improvement projects that may be spread over some time.

Find out more about Mid American’s home equity products or apply online.

New Visa Travel Card: Plastic replaces paper

 If you’re planning a trip, Mid American’s new Visa Travel Card will give you the best of both worlds: the safety of travelers checks and the convenience of plastic.

The pre-paid Visa Travel Card offers a number of benefits, including emergency card placement, 90-day purchase protection (after registering the card online), 24/7 online account management and customer service, travel assistance and lost luggage reimbursement.

The card, which has no monthly maintenance fee and a one-time $4 purchase fee, can be reloaded in amounts from $100 to $5,000.

The card can be used worldwide wherever Visa debit cards are accepted, including at ATMs and for cash advances.

With this new, more convenient option, Mid American will no longer offer paper travelers checks. 

Plan for vacations by setting aside money in a Mid American vacation savings account. The account earns dividends and you can make three withdrawals every month to accommodate getaways all year long.

Nominal paper statement fee coming

To help limit one of Mid American’s largest ongoing expenses, we will begin charging a nominal paper statement fee for some accounts starting in February.

The $2 fee applies to accounts with less than $25 on deposit and none of the following accounts: all checking accounts, health savings accounts, Preferred Youth accounts and Visa credit card accounts.

Members can easily avoid the fee by switching to e-statements, which can be done through Desktop Banking, or keeping more than $25 on deposit. After logging into Desktop Banking, find the blue button labeled E-Statements/Alerts on the left-hand side to bring up the Sign Up option.

If you’re not signed up for Desktop Banking, click here to fill the application for Desktop Banking Authorization. Print and mail, fax or drop off the application at any Mid American branch.

Please contact financial services, 316-722-3921, ext. 202, with any questions.

Major system conversion under way this year

By Jim Holt, President/CEO

We have been making significant changes at Mid American the last few years. We have recommitted our staff to a world class type of service to members, built a new branch in the northeast quadrant of Wichita, and improved functions to our ATMs to help serve the visually impaired and provide better service to members.

This trend will continue in 2014. We will switch to a different, more robust information services system (the technology that allows us to deliver services to you and allows you to connect virtually with us). This is known in the industry as a “core system conversion.”

Conversions are a huge undertaking – the last time we did a conversion was in 1994. We have grown quite a bit since then in various categories including membership, assets and products offered. As you well know, technology – and the impact it has had on the financial industry – has grown at a dramatic, accelerating pace in the past 20 years.

To make sure we offer the technological services you expect and deserve, we need to upgrade our system. We spent more than a year researching available core systems, visiting other credit unions to uncover the pros and cons of various ones, and working with our volunteer leadership and staff to choose a vendor. We looked for a system that could deliver mission-critical components to meet regulatory standards and provide a proven, flexible and sophisticated platform to meet both current and future member needs.

We have signed a contract with Symitar, a vendor known for providing a core system that can integrate its own products and the best third-party vendors. That means we will be able to respond with updated products and services to keep up with the evolving demands in our marketplace.

Among the benefits that you can expect from this new system will be faster and better ways of using online and mobile banking, improved bill-paying features, the ability to retrieve or reset access to your accounts online and a more robust mobile alert system for account activity.

Our conversion date is Labor Day weekend, which will help minimize any disruption in service. The conversion will present a learning curve not only for our staff, but for our members as well. Because we will convert systems, you can expect us to help you make some changes - for example in your login, password and mobile apps access. We will give you lots of notice and offer user tips and assistance as we get closer to the time. Watch for communications in newsletters, correspondence and on our website.

Tell your story with Money Possible: Destroy Debt

 

We are looking for members who are willing to participate in an opportunity to improve their personal financial situation and to share their story on social media and KAKE-TV. No confidential information will be shared.

 

Money Possible: Destroy Debt is a campaign that will follow several credit union members/families as they work to destroy debt in their household. The participants will receive weekly counseling from the Consumer Credit Counseling Service as they learn valuable money management skills and increase their personal financial literacy.

 

For more information and an application to participate, visit our Money Possible page or contact Dana Walcheck at 316-722-3921, ext. 211.

 

 

Discounted insurance available to members

 

Mid American Credit Union members can take advantage of discounted rates for auto, home and life insurance through TruStage Insurance. Members will receive a special mailing about the program in November 2013, or you can find out more by clicking here

Being insured is part of having a solid financial plan. From getting a good rate on coverage for your car and covering your home and possessions to making sure your life insurance is adequate, having dependable insurance can help provide financial relief during a tough time. It’s an added bonus if you get plans that are affordable for your wallet, such as TruStage Insurance, a program designed specifically for credit union members. More than 14 million credit union members already take advantage of the program, which is part of CUNA Mutual Group. The insurance products are issued by leading U.S. companies.

 

 

Calling in the pros

 By Debbie Stang, Home Loan Officer

 A house is a major purchase or product to sell, so make sure you’ve got someone who knows the real estate terrain in your corner.

According to the National Association of Realtors, 89 percent of buyers used a real estate agent in 2012, up from 69 percent in 2001. On the selling side, only 9 percent of Americans sold a home without an agent, down from a high of 20 percent in 1987.

Real estate agents are skilled at negotiating contracts and navigating the buying or selling process if something gets tricky or complicated. They usually can get what their clients want, and after all, they want to keep you a happy, referring client. Agents can also help make your house hunting more effective; they know your needs and wants as they review listings coming onto the market. If you’re a seller, agents can help weed out who’s a serious buyer and who’s not.

Here are some questions to consider when interviewing for an agent:

• Are you a Realtor or a real estate agent? Both help buy and sell houses, but a Realtor belongs to and must uphold the standards of the National Association of Realtors.

• How long have you been in the industry?

• What is your average list-price-to-sales-price ratio? Listing agents should have ratios closer to 100, meaning they negotiate closer to list prices; buyer’s agents should be below 99 since they’ve negotiated lower than the list price for clients.

• What’s the strategy? As a buyer, you’ll want to know how they’ll search for your future home; how many homes you’ll see and how they’ll handle competing offers. As a seller, you’ll want to know how they’ll market your home.

• How do you separate yourself from competitors?

• Ask for references

• Ask to preview documents, such as agreements or disclosures, before being asked to sign

To let your agent know you’re a serious buyer, get prequalified for a Mid American mortgage. Go to www.midamerican.coop/buying-a-home for more information.

Tax on credit unions would hurt members

 By Jim Holt, President/CEO

In early October, Mid American Credit Union President/CEO and other credit union leaders and volunters participated in the Credit Union National Association's Hike the Hill, a grassroots effort to visit with elected Congressional leaders and their staffs to champion the cause that credit unions are a vital part of the economy. Here's what was on the forefront of this year's Hike the Hill effort.

This year’s challenge is making sure Congressional leaders understand the impact of a proposed tax reform legislation that would add a federal income tax to credit unions. Lobbyists claim we are not helping the economy by not paying taxes.

They are missing the point that credit unions do help out –– by ensuring that low- and middle-class Americans can afford loans to buy vehicles and homes and keep more of their money by paying lower fees for financial services or even getting access to their paychecks. They also miss the point that because credit unions are not-for-profit cooperatives, there are no profits to tax. Any profits are reinvested into your credit union to provide more services and upgrade technology without having to raise member fees or interest rates.

Credit unions have been exempt from federal income taxes because they are cooperatives that help people who are part of a specific community or group or have a particular affiliation. Often they are people who more than likely would not be served by banks. We serve people who often have limited or few assets or who can’t prove their creditworthiness. A lot of people like that still exist in America. A recent Pew State and Consumer Initiatives study showed that 12 million borrowers spend $7.4 billion in payday loans.

At Mid American, for example, we have a second-chance accounts program for employees of our affiliate business partners. Many of those employees would not qualify for an account at a bank and would be forced to use higher fee "payday" cards or check cashing centers that also charge a fee, diminishing the value of their hard-earned paycheck. After keeping a savings account in good standing for six months –– more than half do –– they can add a checking account. The remainder keep a savings account until they qualify for a checking account.

You can help us Hike the Hill, too, by making sure your elected officials know you don’t want us to be taxed. Go to http://www.donttaxmycreditunion.org and click on the Take Action link.

Bankrate debunks CU myths, notes fewer, lower fees

A recent article by Bankrate.com notes that credit unions offer fewer and smaller fees for financial services than large banks. The article also debunks four myths about CUs regarding ATMs, technology, convenient branches and penalties.

Read the article and  spread the word that credit unions are indeed a convenient, great choice to hanging onto more of your money.

 

 

Where to keep valuables

A safe deposit box and a fire-retardant safe are valuable tools for storing important, personal items. But which one is the best for irreplaceable, valuable items, documents or extra cash?

The answer depends on how quickly you or someone else needs access to those items and how irreplaceable those items are.

What to put in a safe deposit box
A safe deposit box is a secure place for things that are irreplaceable or needed infrequently. Some say the rule of thumb is “if I lost this item or documentation, would I be in big trouble?”

Keep items such as insurance policies, property deeds, a coin collection, heirloom or infrequently worn jewelry, stock or bond certificates in the box, experts say. Other items include a DVD or other media with documentation of your household inventory for insurance purposes and irreplaceable family photos (either the actual photographs or media containing scanned images). 

What not to keep in a safe deposit box
Large amounts of cash should never be kept in a safe deposit box. Cash kept in a safe deposit box isn’t insured by federal deposit insurance.

You also shouldn’t keep originals of your will, medical directives, a power of attorney or other documentation and items that would be needed immediately by either you or your survivors in case of your death or if you become incapacitated, experts say. (Safe deposit boxes can only be opened by co-owners or estate executors, and state laws vary on how quickly an executor can access your box.)

Keep those kinds of items in a fire-retardant safe in your home. A safe is also an ideal place to keep your safe deposit box keys.

Another piece of documentation you’ll want to keep in your safe: financial accounts information, as well as passwords and other access information to online accounts.

Safe deposit boxes can be rented at Mid American’s west and northeast branches in Wichita and at the Larned branch. Annual fees range from $20 to $50 depending on the box size. Once you rent a box, you can access it as many times as you need to during a branch’s business hours.

Increasing taxes on credit unions strikes at heart of cooperatives

By Jim Holt, President/CEO

In a credit union, members are essentially pooling their money together to help other members. A key benefit of being part of a not-for-profit financial cooperative is that you keep more of your money through lower loan rates, higher dividends and lower or no fees. 

That will change, if Congress decides to add a federal income tax to credit unions. Banker and other lobbyists and other proponents of taxing credit unions are being heard on Capitol Hill. As a credit union member, you can prevent increasing taxes on credit union members by being heard, too. 

Credit unions have been exempt from federal income taxes since the federal income tax structure was started in 1916 because credit unions are organizations that have a mutual interest in serving communities or similar groups. Rather than providing profit for a select few, credit unions were started as a source of financing for people who often had limited or few assets or couldn’t prove their creditworthiness. A century later, we still serve that purpose. 

Since a credit union is a not-for-profit organization, there really are no profits to tax. Profits are returned to members through the lower rates and fees and higher dividends, so adding a federal income tax to credit unions is just another tax for the 96 million credit union members.

Proponents contend that taxing credit unions will put $500 million in federal coffers, but the cost for members and their credit unions will be $5 billion in lost benefits, according to the Credit Union National Association. Ultimately, members will be affected by having fewer services, less convenience, lower dividends and higher loan rates.

We know most of you enjoy the benefits of credit union membership. That is why we are joining CUNA in its awareness and grassroots campaign, “Don’t Tax My Credit Union.” You can, too.

To find out more about the campaign, go to www.donttaxmycreditunion.org. In the “Take

Action” section of the site, you will find a template letter to send to your Congressional delegation. Tax proponents want to complete this process by the end of 2013 so your continued support will be necessary.

Welcoming members into their financial home

By Jim Holt, President/CEO
*Originally Published on CUInsight.com

When you welcome someone into your home, you usually greet them at the door. So why not do that when you’re welcoming them into what should be their financial home? 

When Mid American Credit Union started planning to build a new branch in northeast Wichita, which is Kansas’ largest city, we wanted to incorporate more efficient and more member-friendly ways of doing business. 

First impressions and setting the right environment make a difference in member satisfaction. Every member expects to get a certain level of service, but we wanted to make their experience at this new branch world class. 

In our research, we came across a new type of design — one in which members were greeted at the door and then guided to a “teller pod” or office to conduct their transactions as the member’s needs dictate. Other financial institutions using this model were reporting that it improves member relationships and member satisfaction. We were also impressed that branches with this model were reporting higher performances in deposit levels, loan productions, sales per day and more referrals. We wanted similar success. 

To provide continuity, the outside of our newest facility looks very similar to our main branch in west Wichita. But inside, the look and feel of the place is very different. 

When the doors opened to our new facility in January 2013, we became the first financial institution in the region in which a staff member greets you at the door and will generally be alongside you the rest of your visit, whether it’s for conducting cash transactions or getting an auto loan. 

Two dialogue stations, with teller stations on either side, are the focal point of the credit union’s lobby. It’s there where a member stands right alongside the employee, making a deposit, withdrawing cash or doing other such business. By removing the physical separation of a traditional teller line between an employee and a member, we’ve removed a barrier to the member’s impression of our service. Members feel invited into a partnership effort for handling their financial needs.

 Members still have the option to conduct business of a more private nature or requiring more details, such as signing loan paperwork, in one of the branch’s offices.

 During a recent tour I gave to other credit union executives, I was asked about the safety and security of such a design. Law enforcement officials assure us that if you create a more direct contact experience — from greeting someone and looking them in the eye at the door to being alongside them —you’ve countered a criminal’s intent to remain inconspicuous and non-descriptive. Rather than using cash drawers at the dialogue stations, the staff access money through an electronic cash dispenser unit.

 We also incorporated another nontraditional feature in this new facility: an independently owned coffee shop offering free Wi-Fi. Members can linger a little longer during their visit, by enjoying a beverage or catching up on emails and working on their laptops or tablets.

 In another nontraditional venture, we partnered with two other Wichita credit unions — Cessna Employees and Catholic Family Federal credit unions — to bring this branch to fruition.

Money-saving tips for 2013

If you’re trying to stay on target for healthy spending this year, here are some tips.

Know your finances. The first step to saving money is knowing how you spend money. Review last year’s finances and pay attention to expenses that might increase this year. If you don’t have a budget, start tracking your finances now for a month and look for ways to save.

Pay yourself. Most American’s don’t have an emergency reserve of at least three months worth of expenses saved. Don’t be one of them. Give up expensive habits and put the savings toward paying yourself. Set up regular, automatic transfers from your checking to your savings account.

Plan meals. The average American family of four tosses out more than $2,000 in food a year. Plan weekly meals, buy in bulk, freeze leftovers, avoid impulse buys or marketing gimmicks, like buy 1 get 1 free, to reduce costs and food waste.

Refinance your home. With mortgage rates at still low rates, it is a good time to think about lowering your payments through refinancing, if you’ll stay in your home for awhile.

Stay healthy. Buy generic drugs when possible. Set up tax-favored accounts such as a flexible spending account through your employer or a health savings account with Mid American to help pay for health care costs. Don’t miss regular screenings and end up paying more in health care costs when a condition has turned more critical.

Get ready for the holidays. Did last year’s holidays strain your budget? Start contributing $20 a week to a holiday savings fund and you’ll have several hundred dollars saved by the time the 2013 holidays come around.

Vacation saving tips

Studies show that an ideal work-life balance leads to happier, more productive employees. Yet many Americans end up not using vacation days, in part because of concerns about how vacations often mean spending money. 

With careful planning, you can enjoy your vacation days with less money stress.

Set up a dedicated vacation fund with automatic transfers. One of the perks of Mid American’s vacation savings accounts is that you can make three free withdrawals a month, so you can plan a vacation for any time of the year.

Make it a family affair. Involve the entire family in other savings strategies. Collect loose change in a vacation savings jar – Mid American has free coin counters at its main and northeast Wichita branches and Ark City branch. Cull your closets and have a garage sale. Eat out less and pack a lunch for work.

Do your research. You can find various deals through sites like Groupon Getaways or LivingSocial Escapes. But read the fine print to check for blackout dates and then compare with other travel sites. Sometimes you can find special deals directly on hotel sites.

Consider “staycations.” Vacations don’t have to involve long-distance travel or any travel at all. Explore your surroundings with a day trip. Often it’s just the time away from work and the making of memories

No more paper government checks

The U.S. government is retiring paper checks for those who receive Social Security or other government benefits.

 As of March 1, 2013, anyone receiving federal benefits will need to have those funds deposited directly into an account. The retirement of paper government checks has been in the works for the past few years as a way to reduce federal spending. The U.S. Treasury Department says it will save taxpayers $1 billion over the next 10 years to move to direct deposit.

 There are still more than 5 million Americans who have not converted their government payments to direct deposit, according to federal officials. Those mailed checks represent an additional $4.6 million in monthly costs since each mailed check costs 92 cents more than a direct deposit transfer, Treasury officials have said.

 If you or someone you know hasn’t taken the step to have these payments directly deposited into an account, go to www.GoDirect.org, call the helpline at 800.333.1795, or contact one of Mid American’s financial service representatives at 316.722.3921, ext. 202 for help in setting up a direct deposit into your account.

Merchants in 40 states can pass on credit card swipe fees

Merchants in 40 states now have the option to pass on the swiping surcharge for certain VISA and MasterCard credit card point-of-sale transactions to consumers.

 The surcharges won’t be allowed on debit and prepaid card transactions and in 10 states, including Kansas, that prohibit the surcharges. The other states where the surcharge won’t be allowed are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Main, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas.

According to financial experts, any credit card surcharges will be limited to the amount of money the merchant pays to the credit card company. So if a merchant is charged 50 cents per swipe by the credit card company, it can only pass on a 50 cent charge to the consumer. Retailers who add the surcharge must post a fee disclosure to the consumer at the point of entry, point of sale and on the receipt, according to experts.

The option became effective Jan. 27, 2013, and is the result of a lawsuit settlement between merchants and VISA and MasterCard.

IRA contributions, income limits change

In 2013, individuals will be able to save a bit more through an individual retirement account, according to new IRS limits.

Since 2008, the IRS had capped contributions to traditional and Roth IRAs collectively at $5,000, but for 2013, the limit has increased slightly to $5,500.

The IRS has also updated the income limits for being eligible to deduct contributions to a traditional IRA and for being eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA. To find out more, go to www.irs.gov.

The IRS has not changed the catch-up contribution limit of an additional $1,000 for persons older than 50.

Mid American offers both traditional and Roth IRAs, as well as a Simplified Employee Pension IRA. The SEP IRA is a low-cost option, with no start-up or administrative costs, to a traditional pension plan and contributions are tax deductible. Employers and self-employed individuals can set up this type of IRA.

If you are interested in an IRA account, contact a financial services representative, 316-722-3921, ext. 202. For legal and tax information, please consult a legal or professional tax adviser.

Mid American Credit Union8404 West Kellogg DriveWichita, KS 67209316.722.3921Fax 316.722.0920Privacy Policy