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.

 

Celebrate National Insurance Month with TopLine!

Many of you probably didn’t know that September is National Insurance Month!

Celebrate National Insurance Month by making sure you have the best coverage to suit all your needs and to protect your loved ones. Ensure the health and success of your finances by examining your coverage plans.

As providers of our families, we can set out the most-detailed financial plans, spend and budget safely, and plan out all major expenses, but without insurance, we may still be unprepared in the event of unexpected expenses, medical emergencies and any of life’s many surprises. This is why having an excellent insurance plan can help us breathe a little more easily in the face of life’s uncertainties.

untitled-design-24The best insurance plans will be able to protect you against financial risks and potentially great losses with quality auto and homeowners insurance policies. The best insurance plans will also support the well-being of your family and limit the out-of-pocket costs incurred from healthcare expenses and medical emergencies. Without an appropriate life insurance plan or adequate health care plan, your family may suffer in the event of medical emergencies, illness or death.

At TopLine Insurance Agency we work to save our members money every day, in every way we can. It’s our commitment to provide you with quality products to protect you, your family and your belongings. We offer personal as well as business policies from a variety of well-known and well-regarded property and casualty insurance carriers such as Encompass, Progressive, Safeco, Travelers and more.

Our insurance policies include Auto, Motorcycle & ATV, RV & Boat, Home/Renters, Life, Business and more.

We are here to help you get the right policy at the best price to fit your individual needs. For a free, personalized, no obligation coverage comparison, contact us to schedule an appointment today! Call 763-391-0007, email us at Quote@TopLinecu.com or stop by your local branch.

 

The Importance of Scholarships to Finance Your Education

As tuition costs continue to climb, scholarships are becoming more and more crucial to a majority of students pursuing a college degree. It is important to both parents and students to understand the benefits scholarships can provide to a college education. Simply researching a few different options and taking the time to fill them out could save you thousands of dollars over the course of your education.

Scholarships

Students and parents should think about their financial situation long before stepping foot on campus. Traditionally, parents have contributed the biggest piece of the financial aid pie. However, according to Dailyworth.com, parents are saving more than they have in the past, but it still isn’t enough. This is yet another reason why it is important to put solid time into applying and researching for scholarships; no matter how well they prepare, parents just can’t do it alone anymore.

The cost of college living is skyrocketing. Census data from 2015 showed that 18 to 34-year-olds are more likely to be living with their parents today than when the recession hit. When it comes to paying for college, there’s a lot more to consider than just tuition. Students need to take into account other living expenses, such as apartment costs, food, utilities, and any other bills they accumulate. The best way to cover some of these costs is to obtain scholarships.

Graduation

Whether you are a student searching for a scholarship or a parent looking to invest in your child’s future, Topline is a great place to get started. The TopLine Credit Union Foundation is a program that reaches out to the community by awarding scholarships and providing financial education and counseling to members of all ages.

The TopLine Credit Union Foundation will be awarding $10,000 in scholarship money to members who are continuing their education. The scholarship awards include four $1,000 scholarships and twelve $500 scholarships.

We are pleased to announce that the Foundation is now also a part of the AmazonSmile Charitable Partner Program! This means you can now support the TopLine Credit Union Foundation by simply shopping online! The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to our foundation.

 

For more information on scholarships or financial education, visit TopLine’s website, email us at Foundation@TopLinecu.com, or call 763-391-9494. We are always happy to help you or your student pursue their dreams.

 

How to Manage Your Student Loans

Student loans are among the greatest financial obstacles for an individual to pay off. With student loan debt surpassing credit card debt for the first time in history, it’s a major concern for students and former students to address. As any college graduate will tell you, the six-month, payment-free grace period you are given following graduation will come sooner than you can imagine. Do you have a loan repayment plan in place yet?

Studnet Loans

In order to assist with your student loans, TopLine Federal Credit Union has partnered with LSS Financial Counseling to provide free Student Loan Repayment Counseling. With LSS Financial Counseling, you can learn how to start and make every payment, how to consolidate your loans, discover loan forgiveness programs, and find more tips on financial security. LSS can help you navigate through options and take the steps needed to pay off your student loans.

Take a peek at some quick tips to get you started on managing your student loans:

Determine What You Owe
Between federal and private student loans from various providers, it can be difficult to keep track of every loan you have. An efficient loan repayment plan will be dependent on the type of loans you have taken out throughout your college career. Fortunately, many schools have an online loan education class that is required of graduating seniors in order to inform students of the loan process. You can also find a list of federal loans at the Department of Education’s website—nslds.ed.gov— and private loans on free annual credit reports at Annualcreditreport.com.

Discover Repayment Plan Options
Federal student loans have various repayment options that help keep your loans affordable. Different options allow you to work with your budget by lowering your monthly payment and consolidating your loans. In repayment plan options, you can opt for a standard 10-year plan which stretches your payment over 25 years or request a payment based on your income. If you have multiple federal student loans, loan consolidation may be a good option to take care of your student debt. This can help streamline your loan payments because you only have one monthly payment to make. Check with your provider and research your options at studentaid.ed.gov.

Explore Loan Forgiveness
In certain circumstances, it could be possible for you to have your federal student loan forgiven, canceled, or discharged which mean that you are no longer expected to repay your loan. This option would alleviate much of the financial burden of student debt. If you work for a government agency on any level, a 501c3 non-profit, or another non-profit providing health or public safety services, you may qualify to have your federal student loans forgiven after 120 payments on those loans. Learn more about federal student loan forgiveness here.

Need further assistance in navigating student loans? As a TopLine Financial Credit Union member, you benefit from free, confidential, and professional help through LSS Financial Counseling. To schedule a visit, call LSS at 1-800-528-2926, or visit our partnership page.

 

Helpful Tips for National Internet Security Month

Helpful Tips

The kickoff to summer brings increased internet and mobile device use – especially for kids and teens that are home for summer break. In honor of National Internet Security Month, we’d like to give you some simple tips to stay secure online and keep your family safe.

  1. Secure your accounts with strong passwords.

Creating a strong password that you can remember is very important. An easy way of remembering your passwords is by using password management software such as LastPass, Dashline, KeePassX, or Sticky Password. (You can compare all these services by reading an article at wired.com.) With password management software, you will need to create a strong master password, though it will be the only one you will ever need to remember!

When creating your master password (or any password), remember that just because it might meet all the criteria for one particular site does not mean it is a strong password. Actually, the term “password” is itself, a little misleading. You shouldn’t use an actual word as your password. Instead, try picking a phrase that is meaningful to you and turning it into an acronym. For example, My husband’s birthday is 21 September 1987 would turn into Mhbi21/Sep,87.

  1. Set your security and privacy settings to your comfort level of sharing.

When you are setting up a new account online, go through the security settings thoroughly – especially when setting up an account for a teen. Facebook, for example, is the number one used social media platform for all ages; familiarize yourself with some basic ways to make your profile secure. Grouping your friends into separate lists is one way to customize who you share your content with, such as family, friends, coworkers, etc.
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Currently, Facebook cannot give third party applications your name or pictures in ads, but possibly could in the future. Opting out of social media ads and denying third-party applications from using your information is simply done by exploring your account settings, then switching “ads” to “no one”.

  1.   If an email, social network post, or text message looks suspicious, delete it – even if you know the source.

Viruses, spyware, and trojans can travel in all forms, especially as attachments. Beware when opening attachments, even from friends – if your friend’s computers are infected, then so are their emails. Staying up-to-date with the latest updates on your devices is a great way to stay safe from hackers. With newer versions come the latest security protections. The easiest measure of email and social network security is simply to log out at the end of each use.

The more you know about the risks of internet security, the more you can take action to prevent yourself from becoming a victim. Check out these prevention tips and resources to help you stay safe. TopLine has many security factors in place to protect your accounts. Learn more about identity protection and account safety on our website.

 

The Many Benefits of Home Equity Loans

Are you facing a major lifestyle change, but are unsure of how to finance it? Obtaining a home equity loan might be the right answer for your finances. A home-equity loan, also known as a second mortgage, allows responsible homeowners to borrow money by leveraging the equity in their homes. Home equity loans are fixed-rate loans set at a lower interest rate than other lines of credit.

dollars-31085_640There are many benefits of a home equity loan that can help you secure financial assistance. Lower interest rates are an excellent draw for many homeowners. Home equity loans have lower interest rates compared to credit card annual percentage rates (APRs), and because a home equity loan is secured by the collateral of your home, lenders are more confident in a borrower’s ability to pay back debt. Borrowers benefit from this confidence with lower rates.

Borrowers can also benefit from a cash payment. Home equity loans, unlike other lines of credit, provide a lump sum of cash based on the amount of equity in your home, allowing you to pay off major expenses with one check.

Obtaining a home equity loan is an excellent option for certain and specific situations. If you are considering how to finance home improvement and renovations, a home equity loan can help you reinvest in your home and property value. Make the most of a smart investment by researching home property values in your area and making market-savvy options.

calculator-1276066_640An additional benefit of a home equity loan comes in the form of a potential tax deduction. With the consultation of a tax advisor, 100% of your home equity loan interest payments may be tax deductible. This can be a major advantage when comparing financial loan options, as 100% tax deduction may not be the case with credit card debt.

A home equity loan can simplify your finances and assist with debt consolidation. Home equity loans have fixed, lower interest rates and lower monthly payments. Additionally, a fixed rate will mean that you know exactly what you pay each month with no variation or surprises.

In the situation of a major life event or expense, such as a wedding or an unexpected medical expense, a home equity loan can help more than spreading such an expense over multiple credit cards or taking on private loans. While a home equity loan can be beneficial in certain situations, refrain from seeking a home equity loan on short-term expenses and property resales. In these situations, there will be better financing options at lower interest rates.

Twins Tickets Drawing

TopLine Federal Credit Union is sponsoring a sweepstakes in which you can enter for a chance to win a pair of Twins tickets valued at $191. Score a home equity loan or home equity line of credit and possibly a set of tickets to see the Twins in action! For more information, visit our website to see the Official Rules.

With so many options for financial assistance, let TopLine Federal Credit Union help pick an option that works best for your family to help you meet your financial goals, simplify your debt, and reach your ideal lifestyle. Apply online, or contact a friendly TopLine representative to get started!

 

Teaching Your Kids to be Financially Literate

Teaching Your Kids

April is Youth Financial Literacy Month, so we thought we’d share why we find financial literacy among our youth so important.

As parents, we want our kids to be successful and to make the right choices. We try our best to teach them all that we know, so how has financial literacy escaped conversation at the dinner table? If we’re not talking about money and finances with one another, how do we expect to teach our kids to become financially stable?

The Child Development Institute lists some good ideas of how you can teach your kids the value of money. The main points are:

 

  • Provide an Allowance. They’ll need somewhere to start. Give your kids a weekly or monthly allowance, or provide chores around the house for them to complete to earn some spare cash.
  • Lead by Example. Teach your kids to separate their funds into pools or pots. One can be for savings, one for a new toy or goal they want to achieve, one for a gift for their parent/grandparent/sibling, and so on. Show them one of your utility bills and make a goal of lowering it for the next month. This will teach them the effect using every-day utilities has on monthly bills and income.
  • Provide Practice. Play games with your kids that teach them the value of a dollar. Monopoly is the most common and popular for this, but can be difficult for younger kids. Check out Kids.gov to find alternative, age-appropriate games.
  • Give Feedback. Support your teachings and lessons with praise and encouragement — include rewards in exchange for good financial decisions. Also, give your children suggestions and direction for better financial decisions if they seem to be getting off-track.

 

TopLine’s Get Smart with your Money program
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 enterprise 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)

  • Inspired by the National Endowment for Financial Education and the Money Smarts curriculum offered by the National Association of Federal Credit Union, 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 23 and Thursday, October 18 at 11:30 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.