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.

 

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 Benefits of Improving Your Credit

Having good credit is essential to a healthy financial well-being. This is due mostly to the fact that obtaining loans is a necessary part of life, and the availability of these loans is based on having a good credit score. Having a good score will help you buy a car, purchase a home, get lower interest rates – even obtain certain jobs.

Building Your Credit

So, how do you build good credit? If you don’t have credit, one of the easiest ways to start is to open a credit card. Search around and find one that doesn’t have a service fee and has a lower APR. At TopLine, we not only offer credit cards with tons of features, but they also come with many perks! Both the Platinum and Platinum Rewards VISA cards are loaded with benefits:

  • Screenshot (301)Low variable APR based on your credit history
  • No annual fees
  • No over-the-limit fee
  • Free eStatements
  • Free online account access
  • Automatic payment options
  • Cash Advances
  • VISA’s Zero Liability Program
  • Worldwide travel and emergency assistance
  • Free auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Warranty Manager Service

Calculating Your Credit Score

If you already have credit, it is important to know where you stand. Before you request copies of your credit report, make sure you know how your FICO Score is calculated. That will help you understand how to read your reports and what each score means. Here is a breakdown of the ranges of credit and what they mean:

  • Excellent Credit: 750 +
  • Good Credit: 700-749
  • Fair Credit: 650-699
  • Poor Credit: 600-649
  • Bad Credit: Below 600

The steps to find your credit score are as follows:

  1. Obtain a credit report – you are able to have one free copy per year. Make sure that you get a credit report from each of the credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
  2. Compare and contrast the reports to find any discrepancies.
  3. If you find some that are inaccurate, be sure to dispute them right away. The longer they remain on your credit report, the more they bring down your score.

Improving Your Credit

Whether your credit report looks to be in good shape or needs improvement, it is important to consistently stay on top of it. The two easiest ways to do that is to reduce the amount of debt you owe as fast as you can and to set up payment reminders so that you don’t default. One of the fastest ways to pay off debt is to use the Debt Snowball Method. People have paid off tens of thousands of dollars in the matter of a few years with this strategy. You can also check out consolidation options to make payments easier and to lower interest rates. At TopLine, we offer personal loans as a form of debt consolidation.

Extra tips for how to improve your credit can be found here.

There are many benefits of having a good credit score – it simply makes life easier. You will see the benefits of lower interest rates and more financial opportunities open up for you like never before – good credit opens doors. Don’t go another day not knowing where you stand or having a bad creditor further lower your score.

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.