Archive for September, 2010

Coming soon: New American 1 website

Check that out – a new!

Five years in the making (or, well, since our last update), the new website features an easy navigation scheme, less clutter, and social media links leading you to places like American 1’s blog, Flickr photo gallery, and YouTube page.

But most of the pages and organization will stay the same – it’ll just make more sense. So “Banking” has all the things to do with cash (savings, checking, etc.), “Loans” has what we’re really good at, and “eServices” has all the convenient ways to manage your money.

Check it out, and let us know what you think!

U.S. doesn’t bailout credit unions; CUs do

Here we go again: just as with two years ago, the Wall Street Journal leads a corporate credit union story with a misleading headline.

In this case, you might get the impression that credit unions are getting bailed out by the federal government, TARP-style. That just isn’t true. What’s really happening is three credit unions who don’t service regular people like you and me (they’re called corporate credit unions) are being helped out by other credit unions.

“Officials said the plan won’t cost taxpayers any money,” the report says. But the headline makes you think otherwise.

Even worse, it’s the number one story in the WSJ’s Most Popular Stories:

This happened a few years back, when U.S. Central Credit Union – a credit union for credit unions – received a loan from the National Credit Union Administration. Essentially, other credit unions stepped in to help the troubled corporate credit union, with no involvement from Congress or TARP or any other bailout institution.

This time, it’s a similar situation: three smaller corporate credit unions are in trouble because of their mortgage investments, which is something we’ve known about and prepared for. So while the WSJ makes it sound like the government is coming in and taking over these corporate credit unions, it’s actually other credit unions and the NCUA that is stepping in to help:

Losses on the mortgage-backed securities held by the five seized credit unions are expected by regulators to total about $15 billion. Wiping out the capital of the failed institutions will cover a chunk of those losses. But the remaining $7 billion to $9.2 billion eventually will be passed along to the nation’s 7,445 federally insured credit unions in the form of future assessments.

In the end, these corporate credit unions are not “retail” credit unions, meaning they don’t help people with auto loans and checking accounts. The corporates serve credit unions like American 1.

Rest assured, this situation isn’t a good thing. But it’s not a government takeover – it’s credit unions helping out their own.

And while these corporate credit unions are facing losses in mortgage investments, the future is still uncertain when it comes to those investments. Who knows – people could pay those mortgages back.

Credit unions, like other financial institutions, are facing a tough time with the mortgage crisis and the economic troubles. But we’re not as bad off as banks are, and we’re not receiving a bailout from the federal government.

We’re taking care of this corporate credit union issue in our own responsible way, despite what the WSJ may lead you to believe.

Credit One Bank: slimy new annual fee practice

Credit One Bank (not to be confused with Capital One, even though they share a similiar logo) has raised the annual fee to a whole new level of under-handed: they’ll charge it to your account in monthly installments.

That’s what we learned when one member received a Credit One Bank Platinum Visa solicitation – complete with a $7 “premium design” option.

Credit One offers “no enrollment fee” (whatever that means), but they do charge a hefty annual fee: $75 for the first year, and $99 each year after that. For your convenience, they’ll include that in your monthly bill at $8.25 a month. So no matter what, you have something to pay each month.

Isn’t that thoughtful?

But then being thoughtful isn’t part of Credit One’s business plan. There are plenty of complaints about them on the Web. Add this monthly annual fee charge to that list of complaints.

News from the August car sale

August Sale - Sunny lot

Check out pictures from our August car sale at the Jackson County Fairgrounds. For once, the weather cooperated and we had a nice weekend.

August Sale - Karen Baker

Also, congratulations to Karen Baker of Jackson – our $1,000 shopping spree winner from the sale. Karen purchased a Chevy Impala at the sale (“It rides like a dream,” she says), and opted for $500 in Walmart gift cards, $250 in Jackson Crossing gift cards, and $250 to the Westwood Mall.

Text scam: keep these things in mind

We have your account information: American 1 wouldn’t call you up and ask you your account information out of the blue. Besides, we have your information already. Usually we ask you to verify your account when you call us – just to make sure you’re who you say you are. That’s to keep your money safe, and to keep thieves from calling up and pretending to be you.

We don’t have a texting program: Some credit unions and banks are notifying their members and customers of transactions or low fund warnings via text. These programs are great, but we don’t have one set up right now. So if you see a text coming from us, it’s not us.

When fraud happens, we use a different method: American 1 does monitor our Visa and debit cards for fraud activity automatically, but the system is a simple phone call that verifies your transactions (“Did you buy such-and-such at this place yesterday?”) and never asks for your card number. Like we mentioned above, we have that info already.

It doesn’t hurt to call us: If you’re ever unsure about someone asking about your financial info, hang up and give us a call to make sure everything’s okay. You never know who’s who, or if a different branch is showing up on your caller ID. So to be safe, just call our toll-free number at (888) 213-2848 and double check everything.

Don’t give out your account info over e-mail, the phone, or anywhere else: That’s the bottom line. Thieves aren’t just using text messages; they could be using e-mail, the phone, even Facebook or Twitter. American 1 doesn’t handle account information, especially account and card numbers, over social networks or e-mail, and we recommend you not share that info with just anyone who asks.

Beware new text scam

The Jackson Citizen Patriot reported on a text messaging scam affecting some of our members and non-members:

People are receiving text messages asking them for banking information, a news release from the sheriff’s office stated.

The messages are sent to mobile phones saying PIN numbers or debit card information have been lost from bank records. The message asks people for banking or debit card information, according to the release.

The text messages started appearing Sunday night, says the report.

Beware of text messaging scams like these, and know that American 1 would never ask you for your account information via text, or for your PIN. That’s personal account information that, chances are, we already have.

In fact, American 1 doesn’t engage in any text messaging program right now. If we ever did (for account updates, say, but not phishing for information), we’d be sure to let you know.

If you did respond to this text message, please let us and the Jackson County Sheriff’s office know.

UPDATE: We had an employee receive the text. Here’s what it read:

American 1 FCU Alert: Your CARD has been DEACTIVATED. Please contact us at 877-733-7240 to RECATIVATE your CARD

She also said it appeared to have come from her own phone, which makes this thing extra tricky.

Read our list of things to keep in mind when it comes to these kinds of fraud schemes.

American 1’s classic car photo contest

If you fancy yourself a classic car collector, or just have fond memories of that ’57 Chevy you used to cruise down Michigan Ave., we want to see what kind of classic car you had or have.

We’re offering a full car detail package for one random photo. To enter to win, simply e-mail us, or drop off a copy at any branch, a photo of you and your classic car along with:

  • Your name and place of residence
  • Which classic car is in the photo
  • The story behind your classic car

We’ll post all the entries to this blog post and then draw a winner at the end of September.

What defines a classic car? We’re not picky. And it doesn’t have to be a photo from the year you first got it. If you take your classic hot rod down to Jackson’s Cruise Night, you can snap a photo from today and share that. The only stipulation is the car in the photo has to be a generally-defined classic car.

Detroit News: Used car prices rise with demand

The Detroit News reports that with a shrinking supply and a rising demand, used vehicle prices are higher than they have been:

Supply is down because “cash for clunkers” required old vehicles to be destroyed, rather than allowing them to be resold. In addition, fewer leased vehicles are being turned in and available for sale because automakers all but abandoned leasing during the industry collapse of 2008 and 2009.

Demand, meanwhile, is up as some cautious consumers choose to buy used cars, rather than expensive new ones.

As demand goes up, so do the prices – as much as 14% for SUVs and 16% for luxury cars, the Detroit News reports.

American 1 Federal Credit Union