Archive for February, 2009

American 1 scholarships earn a ‘thank you’


Just wanted to share a nice note we got from Michigan State Rep. Kenneth Kurtz, congratulating American 1 on giving out two $1,000 college scholarships to Hillsdale-area graduates last year.

“I encourage you to keep up the good work,” Rep. Kurtz writes (click the image to see the full letter).

We’re going to follow his advice with a new round of scholarship recipients this year. The scholarship application is due tomorrow, February 27, so be sure to get it in!

Project: Zero Waste to clean up Jackson County


Get this: we’re joining forces with local waste haulers and recyclers to offer Jackson County residents a chance to do some spring cleaning.

We’re calling the day “Project: Zero Waste,” and it offers a chance for county residents drop off materials like metal, plastic, paper, Styrofoam, tires, and e-waste to be disposed of in an environmentally-responsible manner. The day will take place Saturday, April 18 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Jackson County Fairgrounds.

Residents will have to pre-register to participate in the event. Most items will be taken free of charge, but some – like TVs, tires, and LP tanks – will carry a minimal charge.

Goodwill, Sam’s Club, Recycling Jackson, Northwest Refuse, Emmons Services, OmniSource, Rapid Refill Ink, Dart Container, Pak Mail, and HUCO Kurpinski Recycling – along with the City of Jackson, the Jackson County Fairgrounds, and American 1 – are pooling efforts and resources to ensure a “zero waste” policy.

Project: Zero Waste kicks off a weekend of events in Jackson that will celebrate Earth Day and environmental stewardship. There’s also a big event at Cascades park on Sunday, April 19 sponsored by the Jackson Outdoor Coalition.

County residents who want to participate can download a registration form online at, or pick one up at any branch. Participating organizations will also have registration forms available. Registration forms are due by April 1.

A full list of accepted materials is also available at

GAP helps pay off stolen truck


Travis Crall of Litchfield took his girlfriend to Detroit to see a historical moment. The Detroit Lions, looking at the first 0-16 record in NFL history, were facing the New Orleans Saints at Ford Field one of the final games of the season.

“We watched them lose, as we figured,” Travis says.

But the Lions weren’t the only ones faced with bad luck that cold December night. After the game, Travis and his girlfriend walked the three blocks back to where they parked, in 10-below weather, only to find Travis’s 2003 Dodge Ram truck had been stolen.

After he filed a claim, Travi’s insurance company only agreed to cover $11,000 of his loan balance, leaving an $8,000 balance.

Luckily, Travis opted for Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) when he financed the truck with American 1. GAP covered the entire remaining amount.

Travis’s up-front cost for GAP? $235.

“For the one-time fee, it’s worth it,” he says. “It’s better than paying a lot if something happens.”

Unfortunately for Travis, that “something” was a stolen vehicle. His Dodge Ram was eventually recovered, missing several of its parts. In the meantime, Travis used the $1,000 GAP Advantage toward a Jeep. And, just in case, he opted for GAP again on his loan.

“Hopefully I don’t need it again, at least in that kind of situation,” Travis says.

GAP is much more affordable than paying the remaining loan balance should that “something” strike again.

“It pays for a little security,” Travis says.

Stimulus bill Q and A

The New York Times has a fairly comprehensive question-and-answer post on the stimulus bill President Obama signed into law earlier this week.

While there are tons of possible questions and scenarios that could apply to you and your family, the Q and A gives broad answers to help make sense of the whole thing. It covers everything from Cobra to the new tax credit and changes to the Alternative Minimum Tax.

If you’re feeling really brave, you can read the stimulus bill in its entirety on House of Representatives’s site.

What does the stimulus bill mean to you?

A bit, according to The Consumerist. Mostly, it’s extra tax breaks: a tax break if you purchase a home sometime in 2009, an individual and couples tax credit, extended unemployment benefits, and a few more noteworthy items.

The original document is about 1,000 pages long, so we appreciate these news outlets skimming the giant package into a more digestible chunks.

Wells Fargo: ‘Feel sorry for us, even with bailout’

Wells Fargo crashes

Don’t you feel sorry for all the banks getting government bailout money?

If you’re Wells Fargo, you want all the sympathy you can get. Especially after a public outcry made you cancel a Las Vegas shin-dig you had planned to celebrate your mortgage officers.

This is the same Wells Fargo, let’s not forget, that held out its hand to the tune of $25 billion worth of TARP funds. What’s a Vegas trip when you have $25 billion from taxpayers? Or a purchase of a major financial corporation? Or a New-York-based lender takeover? Or a $2.5 billion loss in the fourth quarter of 2008?

Wait, who do we feel sorry for?

Jon Carroll at the San Francisco Chronicle thinks maybe we should feel sympathy for Wells Fargo customers:

Were any actual customers helped? No, Wells Fargo does not hold “recognition events” for its customers, the people who actually pay the interest and, oh yes, the taxes that went into the bailout. Sometimes the customers get a free candy cane, though, and who doesn’t like candy?

At least candy is cheaper than financial mergers, sub-prime loans, and a lavish Las Vegas trip for mortgage officers, right?

So let’s all shed a tear for Wells Fargo cancelling its employee pat-on-the-back party – especially in these troubled times when bankers need all the Vegas sunshine they can get.

Getting crazy at Crazy Bowl

Argyle Branch - Shrek

What can we say? We like to have fun.

American 1 participated in Junior Achievement’s Crazy Bowl fundraiser last Friday. We sponsored nine teams, and raised a bunch of money for JA’s efforts to teach economics and business in local schools.

This year’s theme was “Movie Mania,” and one of teams – dressed as Shrek and and the gang (above) – won “Best Costume.”

American 1 is proud to participate in JA’s Crazy Bowl every year. Check out more photos on our Flickr page.

Three days late on your Visa? BoA jacks rate up to 30%

Talk about the punishment not fitting the crime.

The Consumerist tells the story of some poor chap who was one and three days late on his Bank of America Visa payment. He’s a good customer, has a mortgage with the giant bank, and has a great credit score. His punishment? An interest rate of almost 30%. This is a common practice with big banks, as we’ve outlined on our Top Secret Visa web site.

The guy’s brother tells it like it is:

Bottom line: Don’t take those warm and fuzzy bank commercials—where they show the loving banker taking care of their customers—seriously. The bank doesn’t care about the customer.

Don’t see your tax form? Here’s why

Some members have wondered where their American 1 dividend tax form is. It’s tax season, after all, and if you’re like me, you want to get them done and over with.

If you don’t see your tax form online or you didn’t recieve your form in the mail, there may be a few reasons. You will not receive your tax form if:

  • You earned less than $10.00 in dividends
  • You paid less than $600.00 in interest on a real estate type loan
  • If we don’t have a correct address on the account and a tax form was mailed (it gets sent back to us)

Forms were sent on January 28, so if you don’t see it among your e-statements or you haven’t received anything in the mail, chances are you won’t get one.

Hope that helps!

Laid-off workers have options for retirement funds

So you’ve lost your job. Now what do you do with your 401(k) or saved-up pension dollars?

Greg Menges of Boston Independent Advisors has a few suggestions:

The first thing to do is contact your plan administrator and find out what the rules are. A company must have an exit plan for anyone with a 401(k) who gets laid off. All retirement plans are highly regulated to protect you, but some practical things to consider:

  • Ask how long can you keep your 401(k) in your company’s plan after you leave.
  • If your company matches your contributions, ask how much of your money is vested.
  • If you aren’t fully vested some of the balance may stay with the company.
  • Federal law says if you have less than $5,000 in your account the company must cut you a check. If you don’t want to face huge tax consequences, you have 60 days to get your money into an Individual Retirement Plan (IRA) or, if you get a new job, you may be able to roll the money into your new company’s 401(k) program.
  • Instead of cashing out and taking a taxing check, you can also ask your plan administrator to roll your money over into an IRA of your choice.

US News and World Report has a few tips, too, including looking for good investment options like IRAs, rolling the funds over, and avoiding the temptation to cash out your funds and run with the money. Doing so could cost you in taxes and penalties.

American 1 Federal Credit Union