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.
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.
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.
Page 1 of 7