Why You Should Use Your Credit Card When You’re on Vacation

Summer vacations may have you traveling a lot. Whether you are headed to your cabin or on a cross-country road trip, it is important to think about protecting yourself while spending on vacation. Here are the reasons using your credit card to make purchases when you are out of town is the best way to keep your money safe.

Credit Card Protection

The protection your credit card provides when spending away from home is unparalleled. While you might be inclined to reach for your trusty debit card, a credit card is the wiser choice. By law, your credit card must protect you from fraudulent charges, capping your liability at only $50. Your credit card might also offer purchase protection, extended warranties on purchases (up to two extra years), reimbursement for theft of your purchase, or purchase cost refunds if you cannot return products to the merchant. You would be amazed by all the things your credit card protects you from that you never knew about!

Theft and Fraudulent Charges

TopLine Platinum Credit Cards offer some of the best theft protection out there with Visa’s Zero Liability Program. Experiencing theft on your debit card can be a disastrous ordeal. The thief can wipe out your savings, leaving you with no money to pay bills until your dispute for the fraudulent charges clears and your bank gives you the money back. With a credit card, you are covered. There is no requirement for how quickly you dispute the fraudulent charge and there is no liability beyond $50. The microchip in our Platinum Credit Cards is the most secure way to pay. Each time your card is used to pay for something, the card chip creates a unique transaction code that cannot be reused, allowing for better protection from fraud.

 

When traveling on summer vacation, it is always wise to use your credit card as it offers protection on your purchase and fraudulent charges. You never know when your card information might be stolen, so it is best to avoid using your debit card while out of town. Learn more about our TopLine credit cards here!

 

National Internet Safety Month: How to Keep Your Kids Safe Online

June is National Internet Safety Month and we at Topline Federal Credit Union know quite a bit about internet security. We want to keep not just your financial information safe, we also want to keep your kids safe when surfing online. To honor National Internet Safety Month, here are some tips for keeping your kids safe online.

Protect Private Information

It is important to outline information that is personal and private so that your kids know not to share it. Here are four things your child should know when it comes to protecting privacy, courtesy of parenting.com:

  • Never give your name, phone number, email address, password, postal address, school, or picture without parental permission
  • Do not open email from people you do not know
  • Do not respond to hurtful or disturbing messages
  • Do not get together with anyone you “meet” online

Utilize Software and Settings

There are ways to control the settings of your browser as well as block sites using your IP address. Putting a block on sites that contain lewd content is a good idea because you never know when your child can stumble upon something accidentally.click here for more information on settings for your browser, IP address, and security software.

Be Involved and Aware

As a parent, it is important to regularly monitor the websites your children are visiting online. Before the age of 8, you should co-pilot any computer time and have a set list of websites your kid is allowed to go to. After the age of 8, regular check-ins are still necessary. An easy way to do this is to have your computer in a central location in your home. A desk near the kitchen is a good spot for your child to surf the web because you will be able to keep an eye on them occasionally.

Tips for Adults

It is just important for adults to protect their personal information as it is to protect their kids. Take precautions like changing your passwords often and keeping them safe. An obvious one is to avoid unknown emails and don’t share your personal information with anyone. For more information on staying safe online, visit staysafeonline.org.

 

There are many ways you can work towards keeping your kids safe online. Browsing the internet can be very fun and informational, but it can also be dangerous. We want your child to be safe, not just for National Internet Safety Month, but every month!

Make the Most of Your Home Improvements

Are you looking to make a big investment in your home? There a quite a few factors to keep in mind as you consider the home improvement process. To begin, choose the right projects for your home. There are a few things to consider here.

Improvements Based on Returns On Investment

Design your home improvement projects with resale in mind. Minor changes often earn you more bang for your buck than major changes meaning that you will get more out of smaller changes like repainting, refinishing countertops, and upgrading old appliances to be modern and energy-efficient than you will from completely restructuring your home design.

Remember to keep in mind what’s best for your home. A grand foyer won’t make sense in a modest split-level nor does adding a swimming pool when you aren’t committed to maintaining it.

Major Renovation Tips

If you do go with a major renovation, keep this in mind: don’t price yourself out of the neighborhood. The renovations that you make should keep your home value in line with other homes in your neighborhood. If your home is valued at $300,000 in a neighborhood of $200,000 homes, you won’t reap the rewards of your investment.

Instead, keep your eye on regional design trends and the real estate market, and speak to a realtor before you proceed with major home renovations. Whatever designs you opt for, choose quality materials and designs that add character and maintain the integrity of the house.

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When Small Projects are Better

Now that we have covered what won’t add value to your home, let’s take a look at what will. Kitchens and bathrooms are the rooms in which you will see the biggest return on your investment. This makes sense considering that these rooms are where homeowners spend most of their time. Check out HGTV.com to learn how you can upgrade your kitchen and bathroom to create an investment in your house. For other excellent investment ideas, take a look below:

  • Siding replacement
  • A new roof
  • A new garage door
  • Window replacement
  • Extra space in a new bathroom, additional rooms, or newly finished a basement

With the right preparation and design plan, home improvements can be an excellent way to invest your money. TopLine Federal Credit Union offers home equity lines of credit or loans that can help finance the home renovation and redesign projects of your dreams.

 

Visit TopLine Federal Credit Union to learn about the flexible terms of our home equity line.

National Youth Financial Literacy Month 2017

April is National Youth Financial Literacy Month. Teaching your children about financial literacy can help them develop and carry financially savvy habits well into adulthood. The basics of a financial education should include guidance on spending, saving, and managing money. Ensure that your child is on the path toward a financially stable future by teaching them these basic lessons.

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Teaching Young Children to Save

Kids are never too young to learn the basics of handling money. While younger kids won’t need to pour over financial spreadsheets with you, they can benefit from learning about the meaning of making, spending, and saving money. Introduce coins and paper bills to your child to help explain counting, currency, and equivalency. Encourage your kids to begin saving coins in a clear jar. A clear jar will help them visualize the savings.

If it works for your family, an allowance is a novel way of learning about money management. Consider a few of the following tips as you set an allowance:

  • Set clear expectations of what your child has to do to earn an allowance. Whether they have to finish chores or keep their grades up, this will help them learn about goal-setting and the value of money.
  • Set a clear amount. Give them a “raise” as they get older or take on more responsibilities.
  • Be clear about using an allowance as a tool of money management, not as reward or punishment. This can help your child develop a healthy relationship with their finances and a better understanding of money.
  • Encourage them to set goals on spending. What do they want to save for and how can they get there? Now is the perfect time to open a savings account and teach them about saving and contributing.

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Savings Tips for Pre-teens

Framing how you discuss money with your kids can affect how they perceive money management. Encourage honest communication about money. Be forthright with your own money mistakes from overspending, not saving enough for college, or not being financially independent until adulthood. Also share your successes—paying off debts, successfully budgeting for a down payment, etc.

Encourage your children to ask questions about money. Teach your children about budgeting and include them on family budgeting for things like groceries, Holiday gift shopping, and planning family events. Explore online resources, like Kids.gov to learn more about money management together.

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Important Teen Saving Plans

Now is the time that your child becomes more financially independent. Encourage them to take on more responsibilities at home and to find a job. This way they can learn, with guidance, about managing their own money.

As your teen gets closer to high school graduation, make sure that they know about the following on money management:

  • Have a solid understanding of the basics of saving and spending
  • Review the costs of tuition, living, meal plans, education, etc. of college
  • Set up financial accounts and have an understanding of their student loan system
  • Safety when handling secure financial and private information including, but not limited to passwords, account numbers, PIN, ATM transactions, and more

Free Youth Financial Literacy Sessions from TopLine

We believe that it’s never too early to talk with your kids about money, which is why we have the program Get Smart With Your Money — a financial education initiative that encourages conversation about money among your family. There are three different age-specific groups that tailor to the needs and understandings of your children:

Building Dreams (ages 5-8)
This is a baseline course about the concepts of spending, saving and sharing. It will involve storytelling, worksheets, and other fun activities.

Dollar Power (ages 9-13)
This course teaches the difference between needs and wants, planning and goal setting, saving and paying yourself first, spending wisely and gift cards. Kids will be given real-life scenarios and asked questions about the importance of saving and spending wisely.

Dollars & Sense (ages 14-18)
This course digs deeper into the concepts that were taught in Dollar Power and expands further on sound money management, checking accounts, debit and credit cards and the significance of credit. Again, students will be taught by example with real-life scenarios and thought-provoking questions.

These sessions are offered Saturday, April 22 and Thursday, October 19 starting at 9:00 AM. They will be held at TopLine’s Maple Grove Learning Center located at 9353 Jefferson Highway.

For more information, give TopLine a call at 763-391-9494 or you can register online.

 

Auto Buying: Auto Loan and Car Insurance Tips

One of the most exciting purchases can also bring loads of uncertainty. Buying a car, whether new or used, is a big step that can either be a financial burden or a manageable expense. TopLine Federal Credit Union is here to help you with tips on the finer points of auto loans and auto insurance so you can get on the road in your new vehicle.

Auto Loans: What to Know and How to Prepare

  1. Determine Your Budget

You should only take on new debt when your monthly spending is less than your monthly income. A new loan shouldn’t take away from your plans to save or from your existing commitments. If your monthly cushion allows for a certain amount to go to your car payment each month, work backward from that to determine your target budget for your vehicle.

Not sure what your monthly finances will allow? Use one of these monthly budget calculators from TopLine to find your numbers fast.

When calculating your overall budget, keep in mind that your monthly payment will be determined by a) vehicle price, including any added warranties, b) down payment, c) term of the loan, and d) APR (annual percentage rate). The larger the down payment, the smaller the loan, which will give you more flexibility and a more comfortable monthly payment.

  1. Check your Credit Report

The terms of your loan will be influenced by your credit score, so it may be a good idea to check your credit report for any discrepancies you might need to dispute. You can get a free copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or visit TopLine’s “Get Your Credit Report” website page for more details on both credit reports and scores.

  1. Direct Lending vs. Dealership Financing

You have several choices when it comes to your auto loan. Dealership financing makes use of the dealership’s relationships with financial institutions. Direct lending involves getting your loan directly from your bank or credit union. Before you step foot on the lot, it’s a good idea to gather the information on the loans available to you from reputable places like TopLine Federal Credit Union; being armed with that knowledge will help you decide the best course for you.

  1. Shop Around

If you’re in the market for a new or used car, TopLine is committed to helping you get the best deal in town. As a member-owner, you have exclusive access to our free car buying services with our partner, Minnesota Dealer Direct, a Minneapolis-St. Paul-based firm to ensure you get the savings you deserve without all the hassles. This is free service for TopLine members.  For more information on Minnesota Dealer Direct please call 612-227-9190 or 612-226-8921.

Auto Insurance: What to Know Before You Sign

  1. Shop Around Again

Auto insurance is one of the top-advertised industries out there, so the competition is fierce. At TopLine, we work to save our members money every day, in every way we can with auto insurance. Through TopLine Insurance Agency, we offer auto loan policies from a number of well-known insurance carriers like Encompass, Met Life, Progressive, Safeco, Travelers – up to 20 different insurance carriers in all to assure you get the right policy to fit your individual needs and at the best price. Contact TopLine Insurance Agency at 763-391-0007, email Quote@TopLinecu.com or stop by any of our branch locations to your personalized free, no obligation, coverage comparison today!

  1. Ask questions and Find the Right Coverage

Your insurance costs will be determined by factors like the car you’re driving, your age, credit rating, home address, and driving record. Long commutes and living or working in an area with a high rate of break-ins or vehicle thefts can increase your rate.

There are several types of car insurance coverage options; contact TopLine Insurance Agency at 763-391-0007, email Quote@TopLinecu.com or stop by any of our branch locations to your personalized free, no obligation, coverage comparison today!  It’s a good idea to have a grasp of the options that you want to be included in your coverage and to speak frankly with an agent about your needs.

  1. Read the Fine Print

We’d hate to see you come this far only to have your contract let you down. Read all parts of the contract, and don’t just skim it. If you have questions about wording, ask! Make sure all of the coverage you’re opting into is listed out. Conversely, if you see something you didn’t agree to, ask about it. The car buying process is both thrilling and complicated. Our job at TopLine is to make it less

daunting and to lead you to the right solutions. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for questions or assistance with auto loans, car buying services, or auto insurance. Give us a call 763-391-9494, email Ask@TopLinecu.com or stop by any of our 5 Twin Cities metro locations. It’s always good to have all your questions answered before you buy your shiny new wheels!

Retirement Investments Made Easy – Choosing an IRA

When you’re young and just breaking into the workforce, the last thing on your mind is saving for retirement. Ignorance can be bliss in that regard. But in reality, you should focus on starting a retirement plan at your job as soon as possible. The more money you have saved now, the better off you’ll be for it at a later age.

According to the Federal Reserve, nearly one-third of working-age Americans have no retirement savings or pension. That also includes 25 percent of non-retired people over the age of 45.

For a lot of Americans, retirement planning starts and ends with their employer’s retirement options, often called a 401(K). But not every employer offers a retirement plan and many people are forced to look elsewhere for retirement options.

Usually, an IRA (Individual Retirement Account) is the best place to start if this is the case.

It can be very confusing to figure out what kind of plan to choose when you haven’t looked that deep into retirement planning. The first thing you have to figure out is the difference between a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA.

Choosing an IRA

A Roth IRA is a great choice if you expect your tax rate to be the same or higher in retirement. Withdrawals in retirement are not taxed. A traditional IRA might make a good choice if you expect that your tax rate will be lower in retirement because contributions made now are deductible.

Both IRAs have income thresholds that govern who can make qualified contributions to the accounts. Contributions made to the accounts are made after taxes are paid, so there is no deduction. The contribution always grows tax-free.

How to invest your money isn’t an easy choice. It requires a lot of homework on which direction is best to take. The safest bet is picking investments in the stock market. Taking risks when you’re younger is safer than when you’re older.

Investors with 10 or more years left until they retire can also afford to take risks and go for high returns offered by the stock market rather than playing it safe with certificates of deposit and bonds. The good thing is you can’t lose money in safe investments, but the bad part is you can’t make that much, either.

You can open an IRA at most financial institutions, including TopLine Federal Credit Union. TopLine can help you prepare for your financial future with our specialized investment services.

Reach us at 763-391-9494 or learn more at www.toplinecu.com!

 

Buying a Recreational Vehicle: What to Know Before You Buy

Although winter’s grip is holding tight, you may be considering a purchase you can enjoy once Spring finally arrives. Recreational vehicles—boats, campers, 4-wheelers, motorcycles, jet skis, and RV’s—help Minnesotans make up for the months of winter with fair-weather fun. But is your purchase a prudent one? Here are some things to consider before making the spring splurge.

  1.     Do Your Research

Before heading to a dealership or a sports show, do a little online research about the various types and price points of the item you want. There are several classes of RV’s, several types of ATV’s, and many variations on your classic jet-ski. Read reviews, research manufacturers, compare features and have some understanding of what you’re really hoping to get in your new purchase.

  1.     Ask Around

If you are looking to buy a new recreational vehicle, chances are you’ve used or have been a guest in someone else’s. (And we know that people love to talk about their vehicles.) So ask around, find out what people like or dislike about their campers, 4-wheelers, boats, or motorcycles, and get the real story from others. You just might get to enjoy a test run in your pursuit of forming your opinion.

  1.     Establish a Budget

Just like any large purchase, it is essential to have a predetermined budget. Consider payment options and talk with one of TopLine’s representatives to receive advice on a recreational vehicle loan. We will advise you through the loan process, and help you determine the right budget for you. Click here to get started, or call us at (763) 391-9494.

  1.     Don’t Rule Out Previously-Owned

All of these items can be purchased used—something to consider when thinking about price versus how often you will use it. When you look at used, ask the owner for service records and specific information on how it runs. Conduct a thorough check of the tires, frame, paint, rust levels, etc, just as you would when buying a used car. You may find used recreational vehicles that have only been used for few seasons, (and sparingly at that) so finding a gem that has very little wear is not impossible.

  1.     See and Compare in Person

To speak with experts, hop in the driver’s seat, and really compare different brands, sizes, and models, head to a local Sport’s Show. Be sure to set a budget before you go and remember that you are there for research, not to buy. (Not just yet, anyway!)

Minneapolis Boat Show: Jan. 19-22
St. Cloud Sportsman’s Show: Feb. 10-12
RV, Vacation & Camping Show: Feb. 9-11
Northwest Sports Show: March 23-26

 

Enjoy this exciting process of choosing your new boat or recreational vehicle, and contact TopLine with any questions on our loan options so you can get the toy you want!

 

National Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month

During this month of spending and online shopping, we observe National Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month. Holiday sales are expected to exceed $1 trillion this year, increasing the opportunity for identity theft across the country.

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Follow these steps to ensure you are keeping yourself protected from possible identity thieves:

Destroy Receipts and Statements
Anything that has your personal information–especially account numbers and card numbers–can be used against you. Carefully shred and dispose of any bank statements, insurance records, old cards, and even receipts that might have your card number printed on them. All TopLine branch locations offer free Shred-It™ services where you can bring your past bills, receipts, financial statements, and more to have them securely shredded and tossed.

Be Skeptical
If someone is asking for your personal financial information like account numbers, PINs, security codes or Social Security number, be very wary, particularly if it is over the phone, via email or text. If you’re tempted to trust them, it’s a good idea to do a little research on your own to validate their requests. Call the company by using a phone number you have on records for them – from a statement or the back of a credit or debit card, and search for their company online. If it’s a scam, the website will look questionable or won’t exist, and others may have even posted warnings. TopLine will never contact you via phone, email or text to request personal information.

Watch Credit Card Solicitations
Empty your mailbox quickly so that credit card pitches can’t be filled out in your name. Take your name off of junk mail lists whenever possible to reduce the amount of unwanted mail.

Safekeeping for Your Social Security Number
According to the Social Security Administration, you should not keep your Social Security card in your wallet or purse. Keep your family’s social security cards in a locked, secure location. Once your number is memorized, there is little need for the physical card.

Monitor your Information

Keep an eye on your credit card and bank statements on a daily basis, or weekly at a minimum.

If you don’t recognize a charge, contact your banking institution right away. Similarly, check your credit report at least once a year. Visit http://annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228 to request one. Once you’ve received your credit report, we’d be happy to help you make sense of what you see. Stop by any TopLine branch location or call us at 763-391-9494 to arrange for your free credit report review.

Password Know-How
Passwords for your online banking should be mixed letters, numbers, and characters, and should be changed every few months as a precaution. As cumbersome as it seems, use different passwords for different sites, and don’t leave a written list of passwords around, particularly at your place of work. There are a few helpful add-ons online to store all your passwords, such as LastPass, Sticky Password, LogMeOnce, and more. You can see a helpful review of these and more in an article at pcmag.com.

At TopLine, we are committed to helping you protect yourself from Identity Theft. For additional tips and links to more resources, visit TopLine’s Identity Protection resource.
For more information on Internet security, read our blog from June 2016.

Money Saving Tips for the Holidays – TopLine Federal Credit Union

With the holidays right around the corner, it’s time to start planning. For many, the holiday season is expensive and stressful rather than jolly. Check out these great tips on how to make this holiday season an affordable, stress-free, and memorable one!

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Make a Budget

Shop smart this holiday season by creating and sticking to your budget. When drafting your budget, it’s important to include all the people you’re shopping for, the amount allocated for each person, your overall spending cap and extra funds for the little things. Make sure you don’t overlook the small expenses when drafting your budget such as Holiday cards, wrapping paper, home decorations, and travel expenses. Once your budget is created, setting up a savings account dedicated to holiday spending is an excellent way to avoid running up debt.

purse-522622_640Craft a budget to approximate what you can afford to salt away by subtracting expenses from income. It may be useful to differentiate between fixed expenses such as your mortgage or rent, utilities, and car payments, and variables such as food, entertainment, and vacations.

Create a savings goal and divide it by the number of weeks left before the holidays to calculate how much to set aside each week. It also may be helpful to review how much you spent on gifts last year to help determine your budget this year.

Set up an Account

Once you have your target, the next step is to set up a savings account with TopLine and decide how to fund it. If you already have direct deposit set up with your employer, it may be possible to divert a specified sum from each paycheck — $25, $50 or whatever you decide to contribute — to this account.

Automating the process makes it easier to meet a savings target while also “masking” the loss. You don’t miss what you don’t see. You might also consider padding the account to go beyond gifts and cover holiday-related outlays for decorations, dining out and traveling.

purchasing-689442_640Save money with Online Coupons

If you’re looking to score some deals on gifts, turn to your computer for some money saving resources. There are many money saving sites such as dealcatcher.com, couponcabin.com, and retailmenot.com that offer free printable coupons to redeem in stores or codes for online shopping.

Track Your Spending

Effectively tracking your spending will help you stay loyal to your budget when shopping. Setting up a separate Christmas fund in your bank account is a great way to manage and adhere to your budget. There are many great ways to help track your spending; Some create a spreadsheet to accurately track expenses, others choose money management mobile apps to help keep track of budgets and spending.

Get rewarded while you shop by determining which debit or credit cards will give you the most cash-back rewards or points when you use them. Consider using a credit card for your holiday shopping for extra fraud protection, price protection and the ability to earn rewards.

Contact TopLine if you would like to apply for a Platinum and Platinum Rewards Visa® EMV Credit Cards. TopLine offers cards with low rates and no annual fees. There are no hidden costs or sneaky fees. Not now, not ever. Plus, enjoy protection against lost or stolen cards and unauthorized purchases with VISA’s Zero Liability Program. Use your TopLine Platinum or Platinum Rewards Visa® now through December 31, 2016 and treat yourself to 2% Cash Back bonus* on EVERY purchase – from gas and groceries to your holiday shopping or travel! Don’t have a TopLine Credit Card? Apply today!

Celebrating International Credit Union Month at TopLine

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International Credit Union Day is celebrated annually on the third Tuesday in October. This year, the event lands on October 20 and TopLine is excited to celebrate that day and the month as International Credit Union month.

This year’s credit union theme is “The Authentic Difference,” which celebrates the features that make credit unions unique from other financial institutions. ICU day is an important day worldwide because it gives recognition to the work of credit unions and celebrates the many benefits of them.

Credit unions differ from other financial institutions when it comes to the structure and principals of them. Unlike banks, credit unions are member-owned and are not for profit.

At TopLine, our profits are returned to our members, which allows us to give our members a better value on their investment. Furthermore, we are able to offer competitive rates to our members with little to no fees. At TopLine we have a strong community focus and are committed to putting our members’ needs first.

Credit union principles can change people’s lives — for more than 150 years credit unions have proudly put people and community first in order to provide access to affordable financial services to all of their members. TopLine is certainly no different.
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We want to celebrate this exciting day with our members and the community by hosting an open house at all of our TopLine branches on October 20 to thank our members and celebrate ICU day with free refreshments and giveaways!

Since International Credit Union Day is so important to us, we decided that we would celebrate this day throughout the whole month of October!

We want to express our gratitude to our members and embrace the characteristics that make TopLine unique from other financial institutions. Stop into one of our branches to celebrate ICU day with us and let us help you with all of your financial needs.

TopLine Federal Credit Union, a Twin Cities-based credit union, is Minnesota’s 13th-largest, with assets of more than $350 million. Established in 1935, the not-for-profit cooperative offers a complete line of financial services, as well as auto and home insurance, from its five branch locations — in Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Maple Grove, Plymouth and in St. Paul’s Como Park — as well as by phone, mobile app and online at TopLinecu.com. Membership is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, attends school or volunteers in Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott or Washington Counties and their immediate family members.