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New, in-house call center to open

From Kim Wheelock, Vice President of Information and Remote Sevice

Remodeling is underway at Mid American’s west Wichita branch to create a new, in-house call center to help handle service calls from our members.

The Member Contact Center is expected to open in mid-summer, and will be staffed by a total of  eight employees who will be dedicated to handling member service calls during normal Mid American business hours. After-hours calls will continue to be handled by the Texas call center that for the past several years has been handling those calls, as well as daytime overflow calls.

"Opening an in-house call center is going to be a tremendous service for our members, many of whom have asked for this benefit to help them with their questions and financial needs," said Mid American President and CEO Jim Holt. "The Member Contact Center is a way for us to continue our intent to provide world class service and meet our vision of exceeding our members’ expectations every day."

We have a lot to offer

By Jim Holt, President and CEO

On April 2, Mid American’s merger with Wesley Medical Credit Union in Wichita is scheduled to be finalized. This will mark our third merger in little more than a year and bring our total number of branches to 11, with six of them being in Wichita.

I want to take this opportunity to welcome the newest members of our financial family and also to inform them and remind our current members about several benefits of Mid American membership.

• A life’s worth of products. From youth accounts that can be started at the birth of a child to health savings account to retirement accounts, Mid American can help you with financial products and services for various life events.

With our spectrum of savings accounts, you can save for a vacation, holidays, college and more. If you are an entrepreneur, take advantage of our business services accounts. If you need a home or mode of transportation, we can help finance those dreams. If you need credit, we offer great rates for home equity loans and credit cards. For teens who want to start on the road to financial independence and for seniors who want to start on the road to independence from a career, we can provide you with accounts and resources to plan for that.

• A national network of branches and ATMs. Mid American was one of the first Wichita credit unions of an early initiative to join credit unions across the U.S. in a shared branching network. Through our involvement with CO-OP, you can visit more than 5,000 Shared Branch facilities to make in-person transactions, just as if you are visiting one of our branches. You also can use any of the nearly 30,000 surcharge-free CO-OP ATMs in the U.S. Just look for the CO-OP signage.

• A sophisticated online presence. Many of our members prefer the 24/7 nature of online and mobile banking. That is why we invested in a state-of-the-art online banking system in 2014 and continue to add features to that and our mobile banking system.

• A little extra help. If you need to learn more about certain financial situations or how to budget, we are here to help. We offer occasional seminars at our branches, such as home-buying or retirement investing (see Page 2), and onsite seminars for employees of our preferred partners employer program. If you need help finding ways to save money or even balance a checkbook, our member services representatives are happy to assist you or help you secure the service of the free Kansas Consumer Credit Counseling Service.

Remember that credit unions are about people helping people. That is why our staff and volunteers are always ready to help you with your financial needs.

 

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Become an advocate

By Jim Holt, President and CEO

As a member/owner of a credit union, you make a difference. You are one of 103 million members who have made the decision to trust a not-for-profit cooperative to be your financial home.

We value that trust and work diligently to provide you with the services and products you need. However, every year, credit unions, their supporting organizations and members find themselves trying to ensure that we can continue to operate in your best interest.

At Mid American Credit Union, we regularly communicate with and educate legislators, policymakers and other leaders about the important role we play and how we differ from banks. (As you may recall, my last Member Insight column focused on the differences between banks and credit unions.) In the past, for example, we have educated legislators and policymakers on such topics as the fact that a federal income tax would just be another cost for our members to bear.

On our own, however, this advocacy often goes unheeded. We are going to need your help to make a difference.

Forty-two percent of voters are credit union members, according to Credit Union National Association. Legislators and policymakers need and want to hear from people such as our members who are impacted by policies that affect their financial well-being and the credit unions to which they belong. Many credit union members, both nationally and locally, comprise the middle class who are frequently referred to by political candidates during campaign speeches. It is important to become an informed voter and citizen.

In the upcoming months, you can expect to hear from us about different issues that could impact credit unions. We ask that you consider becoming informed and taking action, because, as a member-owner, you have a vested interest in these policies. And there is power in numbers...

Staying physically and financially healthy

From Emily Rienhardt, blogger for Mid American's Money Matters finance blog.

Gym and health club memberships tend to increase in January as well-intentioned individuals try to make good on resolutions to get in better shape, lose weight or become more physically active.

There are some people who firmly believe a gym membership is the only way they can be held accountable for their health or weight loss goals. For some, it can be a waste of money.

Here are some things to consider, along with tips for cheaper alternatives for staying physically fit.

Make sure you’re fully committed. A gym membership requires more than a mental and physical commitment, it requires a financial commitment. Will you be able to make it worthwhile or will your membership become a monthly “donation” to the gym or health club? Not to be discouraging, but check out the cancellation policy, as well, before making that financial commitment.

Gyms pull crowds. Peak times tend to be in the morning and in the evening, before and after a typical workday. Nothing is more frustrating than being ready to work out and not having the piece of equipment you prefer to exercise on or not being able to get in a full workout because you spent a lot of time waiting for equipment to free up. If you’re thinking about joining a gym in your area, check in on it at those peak times.

There are several free options to achieving fitness goals that have side benefits. For example, take a nice long hike through your neighborhood with friends or family. You'll be spending quality time with people you care about and getting in exercise. Drive to different neighborhoods or parks and explore your community. Walking the dog is also a great way to exercise both your pet and yourself. Find free YouTube exercises online.

If you're committed to making time for workouts, you can consider investing in at-home equipment, a variety of workout DVDs, stability training tools, or even a great pair of walking or running shoes. Or take up bike riding if there are bike-friendly routes and trails in your area. Maybe you can even use your bike to commute to work.

It’s important to weigh your options first and be honest about how you plan to achieve your fitness and well-being goals. If you decide you need a gym membership, squeeze it into your budget where you can.

If you find less-expensive ways to meet your fitness goals, think about investing the money you would have spent on a gym or health club membership in a Mid American savings or vacation account. That way you can achieve some financial well-being along with physical well-being. And if you've saved for a vacation, maybe you'll have some time to recharge your mental well-being, as well.

 

 For more articles on personal finance visit, Money Matters

 

 

Mid American's plans for EMV cards

What are EMV cards?

EMV stands for Europay, VISA and MasterCard.  Currently, traditional card transactions are processed through the information contained on the magnetic stripe of the card.  With EMV cards, a small computer chip is included in the card.  The technology associated with the chip adds a layer of verification when the card is used at an EMV enabled terminal to help ensure that the card has not been duplicated.  You may hear EMV cards referred to as:

  • Smart card
  • Chip card
  • Smart-chip card
  • Chip-enabled smart card
  • Chip-and-choice card (PIN or signature)
  • EMV smart card
  • EMV card

When will I receive an EMV card from Mid American Credit Union?

At this point in time, Mid American Credit Union has not issued EMV cards.  We will continue to monitor terminal deployments, merchant readiness and other card processing factors to help us determine the best time to issue EMV-enabled cards.

Are merchants and financial institutions required to update to EMV?

No, there is no legal or regulatory requirement for either the merchant or the card issuer to update to EMV.  In fact, estimates are that only about 50% of terminals, 29% of credit cards and 17% of debit cards will be EMV-enabled by the end of 2015 with widespread rollout not anticipated for several years.

Will my Mid American card work in an EMV-enabled terminal?

EMV-enabled terminals also support current card-swipe technology, so you can use your existing Mid American card at any EMV-enabled merchant or ATM location.

Am I exposed to potential liability without an EMV card?

Your liability for fraudulent card transactions will not change.  You should continue to follow fraud prevention steps such as not disclosing account, personal or card information, monitoring account transactions and immediately reporting any unusual activity.

What is the significance of the October 1st date?

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In order to encourage EMV, merchants will now bear liability for fraudulent transactions if they continue to use non-EMV terminals. Consumer liability for transactions has not changed.

Will EMV cards eliminate card fraud?

No, EMV will not eliminate card fraud.  For example, since the physical card is not utilized for internet based-transactions, EMV will not protect against fraud in those situations. 

What is the value of EMV?

If fraudsters produce a copy of a traditional magnetic stripe card, they can use the card repeatedly because the data on the magnetic strip doesn’t change with each transaction.  With an EMV card, the computer chip creates a unique transaction code that changes with each use.  If chip information is breached, the typical card duplication would not work because the information would not be usable for other transactions.  EMV technology will not prevent data breaches from occurring, but it will make it much harder for criminals to successfully profit from the data they’ve obtained.

Why the delay in full market acceptance?

With an $11 billion estimated price tag for full deployment, some merchants have delayed installation of EMV terminals.  Furthermore, EMV does not address fraud related to "card-not-present" transactions, such as internet-based transactions.

What are the cost considerations?

EMV cards are about two to three times more expensive to issue. This is a significant consideration for card issuers, such as Mid American, that proactively reissue all cards that may be affected by a merchant data breach.

In summary, we believe it will take some time to fully realize the potential security benefits of EMV cards. We will continue to monitor the progress in order to provide our members with the best security options available.

Sign up online for 24/7 banking

If you haven’t accessed Mid American’s improved Online Banking system, you can easily sign up online if you have an email address on file with us.

In September 2015, Mid American launched a new Online Banking system that offers far more enhancements than our previous system. With the new system, we can now offer online self-enrollment.

Here’s how you can take advantage of that benefit:

1. Click on the Sign up for Online Banking link just below the Member Login button in the upper right-hand corner of www. midamerican.coop.  Accept the disclosure by clicking I Agree.

2. Enter the Social Security number of the primary accountholder (with no dashes), enter your account number and enter the email address that you have on file with us. Click continue

3. Enter the primary accountholder’s personal information.

4. Click Send Email verification. Once the verification email is sent you have one hour to complete the enrollment, or you’ll need to start over the process.

5. Open the verification email and click on the confirmation link.

6. Choose a user name of six to 12 characters (case sensitive). Use the temporary password you selected to log in. You’ll be prompted to change your password after you log in.

We want you involved

By Jim Holt, President/CEO

As a member-owned financial cooperative, we try to get as much input as possible from our members. Whether that is through members providing us with feedback on an individual basis or getting involved in different volunteer opportunities with us, we value the information.

Our Member Advisory Board, which formed in 2008, is one way through which you can get involved. The board provides a unique opportunity for Mid American leadership and members to work together to identify trends, share information about current and future products and service, discuss issues and find out what we can do to enhance our members’ experiences.

Serving on the Member Advisory Board is fairly easy to do and far less time-consuming than serving on our other volunteer boards, such as our board of directors or credit committee, for example.

All we ask is that you to join us for lunch twice a year and engage with my staff and me to provide us with additional voices and perspectives. The interaction provides you with the opportunity to gain a deeper relationship with your trusted financial home and provides us with the information we need to ensure we are doing the best that we can to serve our members.

This past spring, we held our first Member Advisory Board meeting for the year, with 19 members participating. Plans are underway to hold our second meeting in October. There is still room at the table to accommodate more members. If you would like to participate, please contact Sarah Meehan, employer partnerships and advocacy manager, at 316-722-3921, ext. 176 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

If you are unable to join our Member Advisory Board but you want to be an engaged member, we welcome your feedback through a personal call, a visit with a supervisor or through the Contact Us section of our website. To send a secure message, please use the Message Center tab found at the top right-hand corner of our Online Banking page.

Federal credit union agency warns of phishing scam

The National Credit Union Administration has received reports of an online phishing scam that uses a website with a logo and a design similar to the agency’s own site in an attempt to convince unwary customers to provide information or send money.

NCUA is the independent federal agency that regulates, charters and supervises federal credit union and also provides federal insurance for credit union deposits, including those at Mid American Credit Union.

Consumers are reporting receiveing  emails from the National Credit Union website, which apparently originates in Australia and claims to offer services in the United States, Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. This website is not affiliated in any way with the National Credit Union Administration, and the emails are not from NCUA.

The emails attempt to persuade individuals to provide personal information, such as Social Security numbers, account numbers and login information, or transfer large amounts of money. Consumers should neither provide information to this website nor attempt to conduct any financial transactions through it. NCUA would not request personal or financial information in this manner. See NCUA’s Privacy Policy for more information.

To read the NCUA's entire press release on this issue and for more information about what to do if you received such an email, click here

 

Shedding some light


From Debbie Stang, Home Loan Officer

We’ve gotten used to reading labels when we buy food, but have you ever read the label on a light bulb package?

Right there on the box, just like on our food packaging, there’s a box of information with Lighting Facts Per Bulb. So what does
it mean?

> Brightness: Light is measured in lumens; the higher the number, the brighter the bulb.

> Estimated Yearly Energy Costs: This tells you on average how much in energy costs you’ll spend using the bulb. Generally the figure is based on three hours a day of use and being charged 11 cents per kilowatt.

> Life: This figure tells you how long the bulb should last, based on three-hour daily usage. The higher the number, the more efficient the bulb.

> Light appearance: Shown as a scale from warm to cool, this indicates the hue and quality of the light on the light spectrum of 2,700 to 6,500 Kelvin, with K being used as the abbreviation. Lower Kelvin numbers mean the light appears more yellow, while higher Kelvin numbers mean the light is whiter or bluer. The standard color of incandescent bulbs tends to be lower and is often termed as giving warm or soft white light. Lights in the 3,500 to 4,100K range, which are good for kitchens and work spaces, tend to be called cool or bright white or neutral light. Lights in the 5,000 to 6,500K range are good for reading and are sometimes called natural or daylight.

> Energy used: This is the wattage.

LED lights are the new trend when it comes to interior and light design. They add style, sophistication and more options. Although you’ll spend more initially in the purchase price compared to other options, you’ll save money on electricity and replacement costs since they have a longer lifespan.

If you’re wanting to cast your home in
some better light with upgraded lighting and other renovations, consider a second mortgage-home equity loan. To find out
more or to apply for a second mortgage-home equity loan, go to the Loan section
of www.midamerican.coop.

IRS issues new IRA rollover limits

Starting Jan. 1, 2015, the IRS will enforce a tax court ruling that allows an IRA owner only one IRA-to-IRA rollover per 12-month period.

An IRA owner will be allowed to make only one rollover from an IRA to another (or the same) IRA in any 12-month period, regardless of how many IRAs that an individual owns.

In the past, the IRS had allowed one rollover per 12-month period from each
IRA an individual owned.

Rolling over multiple distributions may result in additional taxes and penalties, such as excess contribution penalties.

According to the IRS website, the new ruling won’t affect one’s ability to transfer funds from one IRA trustee directly to another because this type of transfer is not a rollover.

For more information from the IRS on the ruling, click here.

Helping our members affected by layoffs

Being laid off from your job is a stressful time due to the effects on your personal finances. At Mid American, we encourage our members who are dealing with this issue to contact us if you have concerns. We have options that can help you get through the difficulties your family may be facing.

Talk with one of our Financial Service Representatives to learn how we can help: 316-722-3921, ext. 201.

 

 

Have questions about Online Banking? Some FAQs

Q: I am logging in for the first time. What do I enter as the Online Banking ID and my Online Banking password?
A: The first time you log into the new Online Banking tool, you will use your Mid American account number as your Online Banking ID. On the next page you will be asked to enter in your current desktop banking password, which is the password you used in the old system when you say your personal icon image. All letters will need to be entered as lowercase, even if your password contains uppercase letters. You will then need to create a new Online Banking ID and a new Online Banking password.

Q: The icon I see for the first time when I log in isn’t the same one I had in the old system. What should I do?
A: Don’t be alarmed. You will see a random image the first time you log into the new online banking system. You will be asked to select a new personal icon as you go through the various steps of setting up access.

Q: Are there any guidelines on creating my new Online Banking ID?
A: Your new Online Banking ID cannot be your Mid American account number. Your new Online Banking ID must be between 6 to 10 characters long. No special characters are allowed.

Q: Are there any guidelines on creating a new Online Banking password?
A: Your new Online Banking password must be between 6 to 10 characters long. A strong password is a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. The following special characters may be used: ! ” # $ % & ( ) + - / : < = > ? [ ^ _ ‘ { | } * ‘

Q: Will I need to select a new security image and questions?
A: Yes, you will be prompted to select a new personal icon image. You will also be asked to select three different questions and provide the appropriate answers as your new security questions. You will also be asked to provide information that will allow you to reset your password in the future.

Q: Is mobile banking still available?
A: Yes, it is. You will need to activate your mobile settings in the new online banking system, under Settings. And once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to download the new app, available for both Android and iPhones. Your Online Banking Login ID and Password that you’ve just set up will be the same for your mobile app. Find out more details on activating mobile banking by clicking here.

Q: I need to transfer money among my accounts. What’s the easiest way to do that?
A: Go to the new MyMACU page in Online Banking. Check the right hand column for the Transfers section. Use the pulldown menus in the From and To section to select accounts to transfer money to and from.

Q: I use Quicken. Is there anything I need to do to be able to use it in the new system?
A. Yes. You will need to reactivate with Quicken. Download instructions for reactivating here.

Q: What are the benefits of this new system?
A: The new Online Banking system will give you so many more options to review your account and handle transactions than you had under the old Desktop Banking system. And more are on the way.  Here are a few of the benefits:

  • You can customize the way you look at your account information by going to MyMACU.
  • In the Services section, you can change your address, find out loan payoff information and opt in for overdraft protection.
  • You can be notified through Alerts (found in the Settings section) about a whole variety of account activities, such as transfers, account balances going up or down a certain dollar amount, when a certain check clears, an incoming ACH credit, a maturing certificate and more.

Q: I’ve been unsuccessful in logging into the new system. Can I talk to someone?
A: You certainly can. Call us at 316.722.3921. We have an internal call center set up to help you between 7 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays through Sept. 12. After that you can call 316.722.3921, ext. 202 during normal business hours. You can also visit the nearest Mid American Credit Union branch and someone can help you in person. Click here for branch locations and hours.

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.

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.

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