AACFCU Awards $10,000 in Scholarships to High School Students

Army Aviation Center Federal Credit Union (AACFCU) is proud to announce the winners of the 2014 scholarship, recently renamed the Jim H. Mitchell Scholarship. Scholarship winners competed against nearly 100 other applicants from AACFCU’s service area and scored as the top ten candidates. Applicants were judged on academic achievement, extra-curricular activities and essay responses.

“We were extremely impressed with the high caliber of students that applied,” said Lisa Hales, AACFCU vice president of marketing. “We are very proud to help these students further their education.”

Scholarship winners are as follows:

Olani Borders, Enterprise, Ala.: Graduate of Enterprise High School attending the University of Alabama

Charles Foy, Niceville, Fla.: Graduate of Niceville High School attending the University of West Florida

Alexander Fries, Dothan, Ala.: Graduate of Dothan High School attending the University of Alabama

Cecilia Hughes, Geneva, Ala.: Graduate of Geneva High School attending Auburn University

Sarah McGhee, Enterprise, Ala.: Graduate of Enterprise High School attending Samford University

Christopher Mock, Samson, Ala.: Graduate of Samson High School attending the University of Alabama

Katherine Obrion, Enterprise, Ala.: Graduate of Enterprise High School attending Troy University

Meridith Schmieder, Fort Walton Beach, Fla.: Graduate of Fort Walton Beach High School attending the University of Florida

Hayley Sherman, Mobile, Ala.: Graduate of Baker High School attending the University of Alabama

Kimberly Spillers, Enterprise, Ala.: Graduate of Enterprise High School attending Troy University

Army Aviation Center Federal Credit Union offers ten $1,000 scholarships to high school seniors each spring. A student must be a member of AACFCU to be eligible to apply. Information for the 2015 Jim H. Mitchell Scholarship will be available at www.aacfcu.com in the fall.

2014 Scholarship Winners- Group Picture

Millennials: Timely Credit Card Payments Are Crucial

Between juggling student loan payments, rent, and other bills, you might be tempted to skip a credit card payment. Don’t do it. Missing a payment can lower your credit score, which can lead to difficulty getting a loan or even a job.

Millennials, young adults ages 19 to 29, actually have the fewest number of credit cards and the lowest average balance on them, according to Experian’s annual state of credit report. But, they also have the lowest credit scores and frequently make late payments on their cards.

The average overall credit score in Experian’s report is 681; the average for millennials is 628. Shorter credit histories and high utilization rates are two factors that account for the low scores.

To learn more about your credit score and give it a boost, understand:

What makes up a credit score—Payment history, amounts owed (especially as a percentage of credit available–the utilization factor), length of credit history, new credit, and types of credit in use determine your credit score.

How to get your credit report—You can request one free credit report a year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus by visiting annualcreditreport.com, the only website authorized to provide these free reports. You also can call 877-322-8228 or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA, 30348-5281.

How to improve your credit score—Pay all bills on time, every time. Also consider applying for a secured loan. A secured loan trades access to credit for your commitment to keep a certain amount of money in a savings account. Stop by or call to speak with a loan professional to see how a secured loan can help you and find out how to get started.

Copyright 2014 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.

AACFCU Donates $15,931 to Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

IMG_3462Army Aviation Center Federal Credit Union (AACFCU) donated $15,931 to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) after a company-wide fundraising campaign in April and May.  Because of the kindness of AACFCU employees and members, $10,931 was raised in donations while AACFCU donated an additional $5,000 to CFF.

In addition to the fundraisers coordinated by AACFCU employees, AACFCU is a sponsor of the CFF Great Strides Walks in Dothan and Mobile each year.

Lisa Hales, AACFCU vice president of marketing, said, “Our employees get excited every year when it’s time to start fundraising. They work hard to put together fun ideas to help raise money. Of course, we wouldn’t be able to make this type of donation without the generosity of our members and the local community, so we thank you for your support!”

 

Mobile Donation

IMG_3463 Mobile Group

 

Vacation Budgeting Tips from Jason Alderman

Take a look at Jason Alderman’s latest article from Practical Money Matters about budgeting for your vacation this summer and let us know if you have any tips to share.

Keep a Lid on Vacation Costs

By Jason Alderman

Summer vacation is right around the corner. I’m not a big believer in pre-planning every single detail – sometimes the best vacation moments are spontaneous. But unless your rich uncle is paying for the trip, you’ll need to do a certain amount of preparation or your budget will fly out the window.

You do have a vacation budget, right? If not, here are a few suggestions for creating one and some cost-saving ideas to help keep expenses down:

First, be realistic about what you can afford. If your vacation will take more than a month or two to pay off, you may want to scale back on this year’s trip and start setting aside money now for next year.

When building a trip budget, try to anticipate all potential expenses. Consider things like:

  • Airfare-related expenses. Include taxes and fees for items like changing flights, extra leg room, priority boarding, Wi-Fi access, meals, and checked, oversized or overweight baggage.
  • Kayak.com, Airfarewatchdog.com and Travelnerd.com provide handy charts that compare various fees for popular airlines; however, always double-check the airline’s own posted rules before booking your flight.
  • Transportation to and from the airport – at home and all travel locations.
  • Car rentals. Factor in taxes, gas, fill-up penalties and insurance (check your auto insurance and credit card policies to ensure you don’t pay for duplicate coverage).
  • Hotel/lodging. Don’t forget taxes and other local fees, charges for phone/Internet, room service, early check-in or departure, gratuities, etc.
  • Hotel room rates often are based on double occupancy. Although kids usually can stay for free, many hotels charge extra for additional adults.
  • Entertainment. Include meals and snacks, event admission and ticket-ordering charges, transit passes or taxis, sporting equipment rental, babysitters, and special clothing or accessory requirements (sunscreen, hiking boots, etc.)
  • Throw in an extra 10 or 15 percent for unanticipated expenses – lost luggage, flat tire, etc.

 Search for deals on flights, hotels and rental cars at comparison sites like Orbitz.com, Kayak.com, Priceline.com, Hotwire.com, Hotels.com and Travelzoo.com. But beware: Before clicking “confirm,” make sure the final price matches the initial quote. I’ve seen fares jump $50 or more in just minutes or had the seat I was booking suddenly become unavailable.

A few additional tips:

  • Follow and “like” airlines and ticketing sites on Facebook and Twitter. They’ll often share sales, discounts and promotional codes with their followers.
  • If the airfare goes down after you’ve purchased your ticket, ask the airline or ticketing site to refund the difference – it couldn’t hurt to ask.
  • Print and carry a copy of your airline’s Contract of Carriage, which outlines your rights and the airline’s obligations should your flight be cancelled or delayed for reasons besides weather or other “acts of God.”
  • Consider vacation rentals listed on sites like Airbnb.com, VRBO.com and HomeAway.com. You can often find cheaper accommodations with more space and amenities than hotels offer.
  • Before booking a hotel room online, call the individual property to see if they can beat the company’s posted rate. Also ask for member discounts for organizations you belong to like AAA or AARP.

Practical Money Skills for Life, a free personal financial management program run by Visa Inc., has a handy web-based travel calculator that can help you estimate travel costs and rejigger them to meet your budget needs (www.practicalmoneyskills.com/calculators). It’s also available as a free iPhone app, which you can download from iTunes.

Bottom line: A little preplanning now can ensure you don’t blow your whole budget on unexpected vacation expenses.

This article is intended to provide general information and should not be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It’s always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.

Fundraisers for Cystic Fibrosis

Each year, AACFCU is a sponsor of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Great Strides Walks in Dothan and Mobile, and our branches plan several fundraisers to help raise money for the organization. Take a look at some of the fundraisers planned below and stop by to make a donation!

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7 Ways to Automate Your Savings

By Meg Favreau, Senior Editor of Wise Bread

Anybody who has ditched plans to eat a salad to scarf down a plate of nachos instead (like I did, um, yesterday) can tell you that even though we humans usually know what’s best for us, it’s sometimes difficult to actually do the right thing.

This is especially true when it comes to saving money — for emergencies, for retirement, or for almost anything else. But there is some good news. Studies show that once we do set money aside, we’re likely to leave it there. So how do we get ourselves to save in the first place? By automating! Here are six easy ways to do just that.

1. Sign Up for Your Company’s Retirement Plan 

If your company offers a 401(k) or 403(b), this is one of the best options for automatic savings. Not only do these retirement plans automatically put money you earn into a retirement account before you have the opportunity to spend it, but most employers offer a contribution match. That means that for every dollar you contribute (up to a certain amount), or employer will deposit an equal amount into your account. That’s essentially free money, and it’s one of the biggest benefits you can get at a job. Take advantage of it.

2. Split Your Direct Deposit 

If you have direct deposit, most employers will allow you to split your check between multiple accounts — so, instead of depositing all of your money into your checking account, you can set some to automatically go into savings.

3. Set Up a Regular Deposit to Savings

Even if you don’t have direct deposit, many banks will allow you to set up regular automatic deductions. For example, I have a checking account with a traditional bank, and I have a savings account with an online bank. I can set my savings account to automatically deduct from my checking account on every payday. The effect is the same as splitting a direct deposit — the money is in my savings account before I even know it’s gone.

4. Pledge to Save Certain Cash 

You’re probably most familiar with this concept in the form of a piggy bank– at the end of the day, many people automatically put the change in their pockets into a jar, often to save for a specific goal, like a vacation. But there’s no rule saying that you have to stick to coins. Instead,
pledge to set aside every $5 bill that comes your way — or even every $10. This is a great way to reach medium-term savings goals, like buying new furniture.

5. Use a Cash-Back Credit Card 

You should only follow this suggestion if you’re able to pay your credit card off in full every month and you won’t let credit card rewards and 0% balance transfer offers become an excuse for spending more than you normally would. If you fit this criteria, start making your purchases on a cash-back credit card. Then, at the end of every month, deposit that cash back directly into your savings.

Note from AACFCU: Take a look at our low rate credit cards. Our Platinum Rewards MasterCard gives you one point for every dollar you spend to be used for a variety of things such as airline tickets, household items and more. While you may not be able to redeem these for cash, you can use them to purchase other items that would normally come out of your monthly budget, therefore allowing you to save that original amount.

6. Automate Your Bills 

Most utilities, businesses, and even lenders now allow you to set up automatic payments. There are two ways that this helps automate savings. First of all, automatic payments ensure that you pay your bills on time, saving you from late fees and possible dings to your credit. Secondly,
sometimes you can get a discount for paying automatically — for example, some cell phone providers will knock $5 off of your monthly bill if you sign up for the automated system. If you do begin paying automatically, just make sure to check your billing statements regularly to ensure there aren’t any mistakes and you’re not being charged for services you aren’t using.

7. Sign Up for Your Financial Institution’s Round Up Program 

What if you could make yourself save a little bit every time you make a purchase? Several banks and credit unions offer “round up” programs that do just that. Every time you use a credit or debit card registered with the program, your financial institution will automatically deposit the
remainder of your change into a savings account. To get started, ask your bank or credit union if they offer this benefit.

Note from AACFCU: We don’t currently offer a “round up” program, but many of our members have found success in “rounding up” as they track their expenses in their register. If you don’t use a paper register, search for checkbook register apps on your smartphone or device. We’ve found several free apps that help you keep track of your account.

How do you automate your savings? Share your favorite money-saving tips for America Saves Week – an annual celebration of good savings behavior and financial responsibility.

Meg Favreau is the Senior Editor of money-saving blog Wise Bread — an award-winning website dedicated to help you live large on a small budget.

This America Saves Week: Take Action to Improve Your Financial Situation

By Katie Bryan, America Saves Communications Director

America Saves Week, February 24 – March 1, 2014, is a time to review your finances, decide what you want to save for, and set up a system that will allow you to save automatically. That’s why the America Saves Week theme is Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically. Did you know that only half of Americans report having good savings habits? Even if you are already saving, it’s good to take a look at your goals and decide if you can save more or start a new savings goal. Join thousands of others who are pledging to pay down debt, save money, and take financial action during America Saves Week.

Not sure what to save for or what to save for next? Here are the most popular saving goals of those who have pledged to save through America Saves:

  • Save for Emergencies – Only 37 percent of low-to-moderate income households have a savings or money market account at a bank or credit union and nearly a quarter of savers who have pledged to save have chosen “emergency savings” as their first wealth-building goal. Learn more.
  • Save for Education – Saving for education is the second most popular goal savers select when they pledge to save with America Saves. There are many different things to factor in when saving and paying for college.
  • Pay Down Debt – Getting out of debt is the #3 goal Savers select when they pledge to save. That does not come as a surprise since a 2012 survey found that 45% of families with annual incomes under $50,000 rely on credit cards to pay for basic needs such as rent, utilities, insurance and food. Learn more. 
  • Save for a Home – For decades, home ownership has been the main path to wealth for most Americans. Today, home equity – the market value of a home minus the balance on any home loans – represents more than four-fifths of the typical family’s wealth. Learn more. 
  • Save for Retirement – Retirement savings is a top priority for many Savers. Saving for retirement now will ensure that you have enough money to maintain a comfortable standard of living when you stop or reduce the amount of hours you work. Learn more. 

Not sure how to save for your goals? Here are some saving strategies to help:

  • Save Automatically – The easiest and most effective way to save is automatically. This is how millions of Americans save at their bank or credit union, and how millions of employees save through 401(k) and other retirement programs at work. Learn more. 
  • Save at Tax Time – Do you spend weeks eagerly anticipating your tax refund? When the money finally comes in, is it gone tomorrow?  Many people view tax refunds as unplanned bonuses. They see the money as a gift from the government, to use for splurges or treats. But a tax refund provides the opportunity to improve your financial situation. Learn more. 

Take the America Saves Pledge (or re-pledge) today to set your savings goal and make a plan to save. When you take the pledge you can also choose to receive text message tips and reminders to help you save for your goal. And don’t forget to follow America Saves on Facebook and Twitter. 

America Saves Week is coordinated by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council. Started in 2007, the Week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status.

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