I Love Free Stuff - Using Your Debit Card Rewards to Your Advantage
My husband and I just returned from an awesome vacation. It was sunny and warm and a great break this time of year. Do you know what was even better? The free stuff! We are points people. We saved up enough points so that we both had free airfare and five nights hotel stay in a super nice resort. How awesome is that?
We have friends who use their points for upgrades when they travel. Another friend used their points to go parasailing while on vacation. I have a very practical friend who uses her points for gift cards to buy the everyday stuff her family needs. The greatest thing about points is that we can use them for whatever we want. That is what we love about UChoose Loyalty Rewards. UChoose Loyalty Rewards is more than a debit card rewards program. It rewards us for our loyalty to MutualBank, for our deposit, loan and investment balances. It also gives us points when we open up new services AND we earn points when we use our debit card. Woo Hoo! That is so awesome!
UChoose Loyalty Rewards just became even more awesome and I wanted to tell you some of the new things that make the program even better:
- UChoose Rewards now has featured merchants who will give you special offers and bonus points for shopping with them. Check out the special offers when you log in at UChooseRewards.com
- Now you don’t have to worry if you don’t have quite enough points for the item you’ve been saving for. You can go ahead and get it now, and buy the rest of the points needed with your debit card.
- If you are impatient like me, you don’t even have to wait for your gift card to arrive in the mail, you can get it electronically in minutes delivered to your email.
- Oh, and speaking of impatient, if you don’t want to wait for your item to arrive by mail, some of the products have in store pick up, once you’ve paid for it with your points.
UChoose Loyalty Rewards just keeps getting better and better. So I have to ask the question, are you signed up for UChoose Loyalty Rewards? If not, let me remind you it’s free. If you’re already signed up, awesome. Tell me what you love about UChoose Loyalty Rewards or how you use your points at firstname.lastname@example.org . I love to hear your stories.
If you’re not signed up, do it now, don’t wait! Once you register your debit card at UChooseRewards.com you’ll start earning points right away. Maybe you’re thinking that you don’t need it because you use your credit card to accumulate points, that’s great! A lot of people do the same thing. But don’t you want to earn points on the items that you do purchase with your debit card? I know I do. Besides, if you don’t sign up, you miss out on the rewards you can get for your account balances and the bonus points for new services and shopping at select retailers. Don’t throw away the points you could be receiving. Start earning today!
Learn more about UChoose Loyalty Rewards
Social Engineering...Don't Be Fooled and Keep Your Banking Information Safe!
What is social engineering?
CSO Magazine defines Social Engineering:
“Social engineering is essentially the art of gaining access to buildings, systems or data by exploiting human psychology, rather than by breaking in or using technical hacking techniques. For example, instead of trying to find a software vulnerability, a social engineer might call an employee and pose as an information technology (IT) support person, trying to trick the employee into divulging his password.”
– CSO November 2011
Social Engineering can take on many forms and fraudsters can be very successful using this method since it is very low tech and costs very little (if any) money to do. When it comes to banking online, it's even more important to understand the risks and how to keep your information safe and secure.
Here are some common methods of social engineering:
- Posing as a bank employee and calling you to trick you into divulging your personal financial information.
- Posing as a relative calling you to say that your nephew, cousin, aunt, etc. has been stranded in Europe and needs money wired to them in order to get back home.
- Facebook or Twitter scams such as free gift cards, phony charities, “watch this amazing video” are all used to trick people into again divulging private information to steal identities.
Protect yourself from social engineering:
- MutualBank will not call or email you asking for personal, financial, or username and password information.
- If you are suspect of a call you’ve received, insist on calling back with the published phone number of MutualBank or in the case of a relative the number that is known to you.
- If it’s too good to be true…it probably is. Be very leery of extremely cheap or free products / services advertised on Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites.
At MutualBank, we strive to keep you educated of new scams or frauds. For more information about protecting yourself visit our Alerts and Security information.
Visit our Alerts anytime at bankwithmutual.com and click on "Alerts and Security".
MutualBank customers can always call 800-382-8031 to report any instances of fraud or suspicious calls. Together we're working with you to keep your information safe.
Holiday Debt Woes
Now that the Holidays are over, it is now time for those credit card bills to arrive and the determination of what was actually spent on holiday gifts become reality.
As many Americans utilize credit cards to purchase gifts during the holidays and other items all year long, the repayment of that debt is always a challenge. The excitement of the holiday season is over and the stress rises. We use credit cards either as a convenience or because the cash is not available when we want. Then the credit card bill arrives and we have a choice to make, pay the minimum payment and payoff the credit card in about ten years or try to make payments to reduce the balance more rapidly. The following are a few suggestions to make the credit card debt go away and then utilize cash for the next holiday season or purchase.
- Have a plan and try to determine a reasonable payback period. The quicker you pay off credit card debt, the more money you will save. If you have $500 on a credit card and pay the minimum payment, you will end up paying over $1,200 when you eventually pay off the credit card ten years from now. If you payback in three months, your total payback would be approximately $518. (Assuming 21% credit card rate)
- Use our calculator in our Financial Education Center to find out how long it will take to pay off your credit card.
- Once the credit card is paid off, use the payment you were making to create savings. This will then allow you to use cash for your 2012 holiday purchases without having to resort to credit cards.
While this is easier said than done, it takes discipline. And we’re here to help. Every year we make New Year’s resolutions, but if we are not disciplined it is very hard to stick to those resolutions. Let’s chat. Maybe we can work together to come up with a game plan to help you pay down your debt. Go ahead… make 2012 a year that you take control of your finances instead of your finances controlling you.
Businesses: I'm Talking To You!
New Year’s Resolutions... nope, I don’t subscribe to them. I also don’t subscribe to fad diets (although there are times when I should), the latest fashions, or much else that seem to be the latest topics, trends, or crazes. However, what I do believe is necessary and appropriate is to use the calendar as a good benchmark for various aspects of life. Spring and Fall time changes are good reminders to change the batteries in the smoke detector. Anniversaries are a good time to reflect and make a special effort to thank that special person for putting up with me. Well you get the idea...
And, this is the time of year that I encourage our lending team to get out and talk to our clients and vice-versa. Businesses traditionally are ramping up for the year and looking forward. They are thinking about meeting with their CPA. They are looking at the year ahead and trying to determine what sales goals are for the year. And it is at this time of the year that bankers should be taking the time to visit with their clients. Here is a list of conversation topics that your banker needs to be having with you (who initiates the conversation is not as important as having it).
- How do you (the business owner) think 2011 will end up and why? (Did revenue go up, down or sideways? What kind of bottom line do you expect and why? )
- What are your 2012 expectations – where do you see this year differing from last and why?
- Major acquisitions of fixed assets (equipment, real estate) on the horizon? What will that do for the company (does it make sense to invest hard earned money into something – will it make the company more efficient?)
- Any other potential changes on the horizon (staffing, ownership buy outs, possible acquisition of additional lines of business)?
- Expectations of what you (the business owner) want from your banker (number of meetings each year, communications channels, etc.)
You should expect your banker to be of assistance, giving you good guidance and advice. If the banker can’t understand your business, it is difficult for him/her to be able to help you. Meet with your banker, make sure he/she “get it”, and open up those communication channels for both of you to succeed. The bank doesn’t do well unless its clients do well, and businesses don’t do well unless their bank is by their side helping them achieve the goals and aspirations of their companies.
Go ahead and start these conversations today!
Tech Savvy at 50?
I’m 50 now. Shhh – don’t tell anyone. My brain still hasn’t caught up with my physical age in many ways, and I kind of hope it doesn’t. I’m actually working on just the opposite – getting my physicality in a little better shape, and a little ‘younger.’ It’s a long-term commitment, for sure.
My brain does act 50 sometimes though – when it comes to being technology-savvy, I’m a little slow to get on board. It took a lot of poking and prodding to get me on Facebook. I’ve been on it for a few years, and I have to face facts – my technology-driven friends were ‘right on.’ I’ve reconnected & learned more about friends -from my current pals all the way back to elementary school chums. Facebook is as intimidating as I let it be. I’ve learned to manage the urge to be on it incessantly. I’ve become closer with some of my friends as a result, and I know some acquaintances better than before.
I have a Smartphone, read books and magazines on my Kindle, am on LinkedIn (the professional social network, so they say), and I do most of my banking via the internet. I get my bank statements via email, and I have to stop sometimes as I flip through my mail at home – and ask myself why haven’t I signed up for almost everything to come electronically? So much paper is wasted….
Truth is, I’m not quite as tech-savvy as I could be, but I’m solidly above the bottom of the matrix. Maybe I’m in the ‘first quartile’ of tech-savvy? I don’t tweet, use Foursquare or Hootsuite, and frankly, don’t even know what a couple of those are. But I’m trying. Are you?
The New Year gives us the little nudge we need sometimes to try something new. Maybe you’ve been thinking about trying online banking or online bill pay. Maybe you’d like to use mobile banking, but you’re just not sure. Do it. Take that leap and try something new this year. Who knows, maybe you’ll be like this 50 year old and find that technology can be good.
Now That The Holidays Are Over...
You’ve made it through Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, holiday gift exchanges, holiday dinners, family gatherings, post-holiday sales, gift returns, refunds, exchanges and you ask yourself now what? Well, there’s no doubt that during all of the holiday festivities that you have most likely used your MutualBank debit cards, credit cards, and checks.
You’ve probably used your MutualBank financial tools more over the last several weeks than the previous couple of months put together. This means unfortunately there are more opportunities for fraud to occur during the holiday season. Fraudsters and hackers are always attempting to get bank account information, especially during the holidays. One of the most important resources MutualBank has are our customers. That's why you will see us continue in the fight to protect consumers against fraud.
You are part of our front line defense against consumer financial fraud. Our job is to make sure that our customers, like you, are informed to protect their financial assets against fraud. A simple first step is to make sure that you know your spending habits. The easiest way you can do this is to carefully review your bank and credit card statements that cover the holiday time period.
Tips on reviewing your holiday spending:
- Use your statements or MutualBank’s Personal Online Banking…are you signed up for eStatements yet?
- Look for extra charges from retailers that you visited.
- Pay close attention to your online purchase listings.
- View your cleared checks to make sure that they were not altered in any way to change the payees or dollar amounts.
- If you see any debits or charges on your statements that look suspicious please notify our Customer Support area immediately by email or by calling 800-382-8031. Additionally, we welcome you to stop by any of our locations!
If you are a victim of online fraud you should also file a complaint at the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Like what you read today? Stay tuned. At the beginning of every month, we’ll provide you with new security tips. Just one more way we’re trying to help you live a better life!
Last Minute Christmas Shopping
Are all of your gifts bought and wrapped? If so, I’m impressed!
Generally speaking, I am shopping all the way up to Christmas day. Sometimes it’s because I can’t decide what to buy and sometimes it’s simply because I haven’t made enough time to shop. Either way, there have been times I’ve found myself in a bind. It’s Christmas Eve and I finally decide what I want to give, but I can’t purchase it before the store closes. So what am I to do?
This year, I started shopping a couple of weeks ago and throughout one of my purchases, I had an experience I couldn’t resist sharing with you. Did you know you could use your UChoose Loyalty Reward points for gift cards? Did you know you could get some of those gift cards the same day? Let me share with you about my recent Christmas shopping experience.
I was using my lunch hour to complete some online Christmas shopping. It just so happened that I could get four different gifts for people on Amazon.com. Once I confirmed my soon to be gifts, I proceeded to checkout. As I arrived on the page asking for my debit or credit card number, I realized I could get a gift card with my UChoose Loyalty Rewards. It only occurred to me while I was checking out because a day earlier, my coworker said you can get UChoose Loyalty Reward gift cards emailed to you rather than wait the 7-10 days for a plastic gift card to come in the mail.
So I hopped over to the UChoose Loyalty Reward website to purchase a gift card with my points. I found the Amazon gift card, selected the amount I wanted, chose how I would prefer to receive it (mail or email) and added it to my cart. (Side note: I found in most cases, it was cheaper, less points that is, to choose the email option than the plastic option.) After I confirmed my purchase, I went over to my email and lo and behold, there it was! I used the gift card immediately and was able to complete my Amazon purchase.
As Christmas is only five days away, I thought you needed to know about this convenience. If you’re anything like me, still sorting out who to buy for and what to get, keep in mind UChoose Loyalty Reward gift cards. You could order it and receive it in less than 15 minutes.
Go ahead…finish that last minute Christmas shopping today!
The Android App is Here!
Beginning today, December 5, 2011, Android mobile phone users
can download an application designed specifically for Google Android devices!
We are excited to share this news because for almost 6 months, we've been offering MutualMobile, a free mobile banking service. When we discussed "What's your phone to you" back in July during the release of MutualMobile, Android users could use the browser on their phone to access their accounts. But now, the Andoroid App is here.
For users already enrolled in
MutualMobile, we created some quick instructions to help you get the application.
- Log in to your MutualBank online banking and access ‘Mobile
- Select the “I want to change my Mobile Banking services” option to
add the downloadable application.
- After you have changed your services, we will
send you a text message with a link that takes you directly to our Android
application, TouchBanking, in the Android Market.
have not yet enrolled in MutualMobile, it only takes a few minutes! Log in to
online banking and navigate to the Mobile Banking pages to register.
Our phones are so many things to us these days...our watch, alarm clock, email, newspaper, search engine, navigation, and now banking. Go ahead...get started today!
Money Saving Tips for the Holidays
The winter holiday season is almost
here. Soon we will be busy with holiday activities--cooking, decorating and
socializing. We'll also be shopping for gifts for family and friends, but
unfortunately may overspend. Then in the New Year, when the bills start rolling
in, reality and regret will strike.
Here are some tips on how you can
enjoy the season without inducing an overspending hangover in January.
a list of everyone on your gift list. Try to limit it to close family and
friends, and set a maximum amount to spend for each recipient. Calculate
this total; if too high, revise the individual limits to keep the total
you have overspent already, review the list to see where you may be able
to give meaningful gifts without spending. Consider giving personal
"coupons" for specific chores-for example lawn mowing,
babysitting, cooking a meal or hand car washes.
some people enjoy the hustle and bustle of shopping malls, you may prefer
to stay home and shop online, which saves on travel expense. To maximize
the value of virtual shopping, look for free-shipping promotions. Another
option is to check with nearby retailers to see if they can save you on
shipping costs if your item is shipped to the store, instead of to your
people use credit cards for their holiday shopping in order to increase
frequent flier miles and other rewards offered by their credit card
company. There are benefits to this strategy, but keep in mind that will
need to budget for the charges arriving in January; they will need to be
paid off to avoid incurring large credit card interest.
might opt to use cash for Christmas shopping. Decide on an amount for each
person, total the amounts, and take cash from your checking account.
Divide the cash into your predetermined amounts for each person, and place
the cash in envelopes with each person's name and amount on the envelope.
Take these envelopes with you on your shopping excursion. Stick with your
list, and when the cash is gone, it's gone.
social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, you also may be able to
find additional money-saving coupons and discounts.
you have adequate storage space, one of the best times to do your
Christmas shopping is in January, when retailers are clearing out their
merchandise from the holidays. Along this line, think of shopping for
stocking stuffers during the year, as these trinkets can become costly if
bought during the holiday rush.
To make the most of your holiday season, sit back and
take a moment to enjoy the meaning of the season and the opportunity to gather
with family and friends and all those you hold dear. Then take a deep breath,
and shop wisely.
Source: Indiana Bankers Association - November 15, 2011
MutualBank Awarded for Support of Habitat for Humanity
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Each year, the Greater Muncie Indiana Habitat for Humanity
hosts a ‘Volunteer Dinner’ to celebrate and thank the volunteers who’ve helped
them accomplish goals of raising money, building awareness and building homes.
This year at the dinner, we were given the Corporate Partner
of the Year award. Over the course of 2011, MutualBank employees helped to
build homes and raise money for Habitat for Humanity by paying $5.00 to wear
jeans one Friday. We had the opportunity to underwrite a grant yielding the
Greater Muncie Indiana Habitat for Humanity $50,000 in funding from the Federal
Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis. Additionally, we hosted the “Traveling Wall” for the
“$10 Makes a Difference” campaign. Lastly,
we serviced nearly all of the Greater Muncie Indiana Habitat for Humanity
It was a true honor for us to be named Corporate Partner of
the Year. After all, MutualBank’s motto
is to help people live better lives. It closely ties to Habitat’s motto: “Build
Hope, Build Dreams, Build Community”. Together, we help people achieve their
dreams of home ownership. Furthermore, our community is better when more people
have safe and affordable homes
to live in.
We thank the Greater Muncie Habitat for Humanity for their
service to our community, giving employers opportunities to serve the community
and honoring MutualBank as the
Corporate Partner of the Year.
(Left to Right):
Lindsay Arthur, Executive Director, Greater Muncie Habitat for Humanity
Jennifer Volk, Senior Staff Auditor and Outreach Committee President,