Collecting your coins can add up to big money! You may be surprised that your spare change could make for a nice bonus around the holidays. If you’re like me, you have coin stashes in piggybanks, bags and containers around your house. Collect the coins yourself or make it a fun project for the [...]
At Pacific Service Credit Union, we believe that teaching children and young adults about money management instills important financial habits that last a lifetime. That’s why we’ve designed a suite of products specifically suited to children and young adults. And better yet, when you give the gift of membership by opening an account for [...]
Rising home prices, low-rate mortgage loans and shrinking inventory are contributing to a rapidly improving housing market. People are starting to see their homes as an asset again, one whose value may improve over time instead of decline. If you’re a homeowner who has stayed in your home, you may be asking yourself, ‘Is it time for home improvements?’
After several years of decline, the money you’ll likely recoup on home improvement projects is finally on the rise. While not a guaranteed profit generator, home improvement projects can make life easier, improve the value of your home, and make it more marketable.
Are you going?
If your goal is to increase your home’s value for resale, above all, be sure your improvement correctly mimics your community. A very high-end kitchen remodel, for example, may only pay off in an expensive neighborhood. Over building or choosing projects that aren’t universally valuable can actually harm your return on investment.
Conversely, if you’re the smallest house on your block, an additional bedroom and/or bathroom, especially if it doesn’t overcrowd your lot, could help you compete with other houses for sale in your area.
When making improvements to a home that you don’t plan to stay in over the long term, you should consider the concept of mid-range remodeling. Overspending can diminish the return on your investment; however, affordable improvements can add up to big value increases. For example, modest improvements like new counter tops, flooring or appliances can make a vast difference in the appearance of a kitchen, without adding up to big costs.
Are you staying?
If you’re planning to stay in your home for a long time, you may not be as concerned about fully recouping the money you spend. You may want to make improvements that are valuable to your family, like a new addition or a gourmet kitchen. Or, maybe you’ve always wanted a pool or an outdoor entertainment area. Now is a good time to invest in your home, your lifestyle or your family without worrying about the resale implications years down the road.
If you need to finance your home improvements, you may need to demonstrate your home’s value with a home appraisal. Typically, financial institutions lend up to 80% of your home’s value minus your first mortgage balance.
You can start by estimating your property with a home value estimator, like Zillow.com. We often find these estimates are a little off; however, they are a good start. Divide your mortgage balance by your estimated value and multiply by 100. If that number is less than 80%, your value may qualify for a home equity loan or line of credit.
If you don’t have sufficient equity for a home equity loan and have much needed home repairs to get done, you may consider a personal loan.
For more information, call one of our real estate specialists. We’re happy to help.
As part of our commitment to protecting members and their finances, we post current scams and provide tips on how to protect your personal information and accounts. Three new scams are making headlines and have even affected some Pacific Service CU members.
Online Photo Sharing Scam
The FBI has put out an alert about cyber criminals using online photo sharing programs to gain access and harm victims’ computers. The scammer advertises a product online. To see photos of the for sale item, the buyer must provide an email address. The scammer sends either an attachment or a link to a gallery of photos, both of which infect the recipient’s computer with malicious software.
There are several ways you can protect yourself from a scam of this nature. First, keep your computer software, anti-virus software, firewalls and operating system up to date and set your anti-virus software to scan files before downloading them.
Additionally, when shopping online, stick to reputable retailers. If an item price seems much lower than it should be, the retailer may be fraudulent. Use extra caution when contacted directly by the seller after losing an online auction claiming that the original buyer fell through.
Online dating continues to rise in popularity. Although this can be a great way to meet someone, unfortunately, it can also attract fraudsters. Here’s how the scam usually works. The fraudster reaches out to the victim online. Over the course of weeks or even months, the communication continues and the two form a connection. Victims may even receive flowers or gifts. Ultimately, however, the fraudster will ask for money or ask the victim to perform a favor by cashing a check for them. The money borrowing continues until the victim realizes they have been scammed.
The FBI reports several common threads in scams of this nature. The scammer professes instant feelings of love, sends photos that look too professional, claims to be traveling or working abroad, or asks to leave the dating website to communicate using personal email. Stories often include a personal tragedy, financial hardship or the inability to cash checks where they’re working or traveling.
To protect yourself, stick to nationally-known, reputable dating sites. Do not cash checks for someone else, wire money, provide your account number, or setup automatic transfers to strangers. Above all, trust your instincts. If a situation seems suspicious, it probably is.
This type of crime is often underreported because the victims are embarrassed. If you think you’ve been a victim of a dating scam, the FBI recommends that you file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Online employment scams are a common type of fraud. Here’s how the scam usually works. A job seeker applies online and after an email exchange, is hired. The employer may ask the prospective employee to provide personal information to set up employee benefits. Or, in order to receive paychecks via online, to set up an automatic transfer to their account, the employer then asks to verify automatic transfers, which often give the fraudster access to the employee’s account.
Employment scams, although often intricate and authentic in their appearance, are simply an attempt to gain personal information and commit identity theft. To protect yourself, keep your personal information private. Never provide account numbers, account access, Social Security numbers or any personal information to strangers.
If you suspect you have been a victim of fraud, or that your account has been compromised, immediately call a member service representative at (888) 858-6878. The sooner we know about fraud attempts, the sooner we can act to protect you. We can cancel compromised cards, change your account number, or add a password to your account for future transactions if it should become necessary.
These days, your smartphone probably carries more confidential information than your wallet. Phones often have password vaults or stored passwords, banking information, your contact information and more. Now that your phone is more important than your wallet, phone theft is the new purse snatching. So, how can you keep your personal information safe?
The first step is to lock your phone with a password. It’s basic and not foolproof; however, it’s the easiest deterrent for thieves that want quick access to your personal information. If they can’t access your information quickly after stealing your device, you will have time to report the loss and the thieves may move on.
Don’t store critical personal data in accessible applications, like notes, calendars or email. If you want to use your device as a password vault, consider a password and data vault app, like Secure Wallet, eWallet or Google Wallet, to safely house your secure data.
Use remote access like wi-fi and Bluetooth only when you need it and only from trusted sources, especially if conducting financial business. Don’t opt to have your phone automatically connect to nearby wi-fi networks and be sure to turn your Bluetooth availability off when not in use.
Instead of using your mobile browser, download an application, or “app,” instead. As long as you download from your device’s official store or marketplace, applications are safer than simply shopping or accessing websites online because they can help protect you from fraudulent phishing sites. You should also consider installing antivirus protection on tablets and notebooks. Be sure to download from your official app store or marketplace.
When accessing personal or financial information online, don’t skip the important step of logging out. Logging out closes your session and shuts down access to someone trying to access the site or app after you.
Additionally, don’t let your browser or device save your passwords. Enter your password for access every time.
When you get rid of your phone, be sure to wipe it clean of all data. Typically, phones have an option to erase the content or return it to the original factory settings.
As always, we encourage you to stay informed about current scams. We regularly post scam alerts and risks associated with banking on our blog.
If you suspect that you have been a victim of fraud or your account has been compromised, immediately call a member service representative at (888) 858-6878. We can cancel compromised Pacific Service CU cards, change your account number or add a password to your account for future transactions.
Most consumers are familiar with mortgage loan refinancing. However, members often tell us they didn’t know they could refinance their auto loan.
Vehicle loans are typically established with 4-6 year terms. During the loan period, economic and financial situations can change. You may be able to proactively respond to these changes with an auto loan refinance. Improvements in market rates, your credit score or your income can add up to big savings.
Annual percentage rates periodically change. In a rate environment like we are in today, rates have been declining. If you purchased a car more than a year ago, it is possible that your current interest rate is higher than what is being offered today. Refinancing could lower your monthly payment while keeping the same term. Or, refinancing to a lower interest rate and keeping the monthly payment the same could reduce the amount of time it takes to pay off the loan.
Multiple factors are used in calculating credit scores, including payment history. After a year or more of timely repayments, a credit score may improve. A higher credit score may qualify for a lower rate. Lower rates not only reduce the monthly payment, they also reduce the amount of interest paid over the life of the loan.
If your income has increased, you may want to consider refinancing to a lower interest rate and shortening your term. Both actions will save finance charges and increase your equity in your vehicle.
Conversely, if your income has decreased and overextended your monthly budget, you may prefer to extend the loan term and lower your payment to help pay other expenses.
To find out if an auto loan refinance is right for you, try our online Loan Saver calculator. Or, if you prefer the personal touch, with a phone call and a few minutes, we can determine if we can save you money.
For a limited time, we have an unbeatable refinance offer that includes up to $300 cash back, no payments for 90 days, and a rate as low as 2.24% APR. Find out more.
Sactown Credit Union 10-Mile Run benefitting Children's Miracle Network Hospitals
At Pacific Service Credit Union, we pride ourselves on being an active part of our community. We’re already hard at work in 2013 contributing in the communities that we serve. Here’s a little more about our funding in the first three months of the year.
Kids Day 2013 Sponsorship
Once again, we are a proud sponsor of Kids Day 2013 benefitting The Children’s Hospital of Central California, which provides medical treatment to over 100,000 children.
YMCA of San Francisco
We are supporting the Presidio Community YMCA’s afterschool learning program at Sutro Elementary School. The program provides free, high quality afterschool services to youth in San Francisco’s Inner Richmond neighborhood.
Diabetic Youth Foundation
Our donations support the DYF with their mission is to improve the quality of life for children, teens and families affected by diabetes by providing education and recreation to foster personal growth, knowledge and independence.
San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Foundation (SFDSF)
This year’s funding will provide back-to-school supplies for 300 low-income, at-risk children. The event gives private access to a local Target store for the children and deputy sheriff officers to shop. Merchandise is specially priced to maximize what each child can purchase with their allocation.
Credit Unions for Kids is a nonprofit collaboration of credit unions and business partners from across the country benefitting Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Funding supports treatment of children, regardless of their ability to pay.
Children’s Miracle Day Fundraiser
We were one of many credit unions supporting the Credit Union SacTown Ten-Mile Race benefitting Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, including hospitals in Oakland and Fresno.
Fresno Police and Neighborhood Watch program
Our funding supports community block parties and education for children. Children participate in crime prevention and games that reinforce positive living, improve relations with law enforcement officers and encourage community spirit.
Fresno Police Activities League (PAL) programs
Our involvement will support programs for low-income, at-risk residents of the community, including bicycle repair, bicycle giveaways and a mentoring pen pal program.
American Red Cross Save-a-Life Days (Formerly CPR Saturdays)
For the 11th year, our funding will sponsor a series of regional training events that deliver lifesaving skills to vulnerable populations in underserved communities at no cost.
Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano – Admiral’s Garden event sponsorship
Proceeds from the event help the Food Bank supply food to needy families during the summer months when donations are historically low. We have supported this event since 2004.
If you are involved in a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that you feel may fit our mission, we would be happy to consider them for a charitable contribution. Simply email me and include your organization’s name, email address and phone number.
For website security purposes and to ensure that access to the Pacific Service Credit Union (PSCU) website remains available to all users, PSCU may enable the use of software programs to monitor and record network traffic to identify unauthorized attempts to upload or change information or otherwise cause damage. Unauthorized attempts to upload information or change information on this website and any other illegal activities are strictly prohibited, may be reported to law enforcement agencies and may be punishable under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 and Title 18 U.S.C. Sec.1001 and 1030.