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!

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 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.