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  • Learn About Credit Unions
    • Historical Timeline of Credit Unions

      As not-for-profit depository institutions, credit unions were created to serve members as credit cooperatives.

    • How is a Credit Union Different than a Bank?

      In the United States, credit unions are not-for-profit organizations that exist to serve their members rather than to maximize corporate profits.

    • How to Find a Credit Union in Your Area

      Once you select a specific credit union, you can view more details about that credit union, including contact information, branch locations, services offered, and recent financial statements.

    • How to Join a Credit Union

      Anybody can join a credit union. Each credit union serves what’s called their “field of membership” – that’s the commonality between the members.

    • How to Start a Credit Union

      If your group is eligible, NCUA's staff will assist you with preparing an application for a charter and see that your group receives guidance in getting your federal credit union started.

    • Is a Credit Union Right for Me?

      Because credit unions are not-for-profit financial institutions, their focus is serving the financial needs of their members and not making a profit.

    • Credit Union and Bank Interest Rate Comparison

      In general, credit unions offer higher savings rates, meaning that your money grows faster, and lower rates on loans, meaning that you will owe less over the lifetime of the loan.

    • Learn More About Your Credit Union

      NCUA makes financial information about credit unions available to the public through Financial Performance Reports (FPRs).

    • Low Income Credit Unions

      Credit unions provide valuable access to financial services for people underserved and unserved by traditional financial institutions.

    • Understanding Differences in Federal vs. Privately Insured Credit Unions

      Federally-chartered credit unions are regulated by the National Credit Union Administration and insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, which is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government.

    • What is a Credit Union?

      A federal credit union is a cooperative financial institution chartered by the federal government and owned by individual members.

  • Protect Your Finances
    • Consumer Protection Update

      Watch the latest NCUA Consumer Protection Update video to learn about important updates and changes that may affect you as a consumer."

    • Credit Reports and Credit Scores

      It’s a good idea to monitor your credit report on a regular basis to make sure that the information is accurate. You can also verify that no one has stolen your identity to make fraudulent charges.

    • Share Insurance Coverage

      Federally insured credit unions offer a safe place for you to save your money, with deposits insured up to $250,000, per individual depositor.

    • Online Financial Safety Tips

      When performing transactions on your credit union's website, it's wise to make sure that the website is legitimate and that your deposits are federally insured.

    • Prevent Identity Theft

      If you believe that someone has stolen your identity, you should contact any credit union, bank or creditor where you have an account that you think may be the subject of identity theft.

    • Frauds and Scams

      NCUA reports on frauds and scams aimed at credit union members. In this section, we provide an overview of recent activity.

    • Scams Targeting Seniors

      America's growing senior population is vulnerable to a broad range of financial crimes. In this section, NCUA provides tips on how seniors can protect themselves from fraud.

    • Tips for Young Adults

      Credit unions offer young adults desirable, affordable financial services, as well as the advantage of personal service developed to help them grow their savings. Many credit unions offer services within schools or have student-run branches.

    • Pocket Cents

      Learn about the history of money, different currencies used around the world, the power of dividends and how to be smart about preparing for your financial future with Pocket Cents from NCUA.

    • Understand Your Privacy Rights

      Federal privacy laws give you the right to stop (opt out of) some sharing of your personal financial information. The law permits your financial companies to share certain information about you without giving you the right to opt out.

  • Financial Tools and Resources
    • Brochures and Graphics

      These brochures and graphics may be linked, downloaded, or printed.

    • Calendar of Events

      View a listing of upcoming events, designations, and opportunities for each month.

    • College Scorecard

      Plan your entire financial aid packages online for all of the schools that you are considering.

    • Consumer Loan Calculator

      Explore your consumer loan, including the effect of adjusting number of payments, principal and interest rate on your monthly payment.

    • Consumer Resources

      Use these references and tools to make better informed financial decisions.

    • FAQs

      Locate answers in the Knowledge Base to a wide variety of frequently asked questions.

    • Games and Activities

      Test your financial knowledge with these games and activities for all ages.

    • Glossary

      Become an educated consumer by taking the mystery out of commonly used financial terms.

    • Lesson Plans and Resources

      Educators and parents can use these plans and resources to teach youth, tweens, and teens about saving, spending, budgeting, and the value of money.

    • Mortgage Loan Calculators

      Compare monthly payments and the amount of equity you would build with several kinds of fixed and adjustable rate mortgages.

    • Personal Budgeting Worksheet

      Take a close look at your income and expenses with this helpful worksheet that can identify where you might have room to save.

    • Savings & Retirement Calculator

      Get estimates based on your actual Social Security earnings record with this calculator.

    • Share Insurance Estimator

      Are your deposits insured? Find out with NCUA’s electronic Share Insurance Estimator.

    • Videos

      View NCUA's Consumer Report and Consumer Protection Update videos on current financial hot topics.

  • Credit Unions and You
    • Dealing with Debt

      Bill payer services, or debt consolidation services, can help consumers preserve their credit scores by merging debts and establishing a workable schedule to pay down money owed to creditors through a single monthly payment.

    • Buying A Car

      It's important to know how to make a smart deal. Your credit union can discuss car loan options with you.

    • Paying off Credit Cards

      Read your statement carefully for information about how long it would take to pay off your account balance if you only pay the minimum payment. It can take years, even decades, to pay it off.

    • Home Ownership and Mortgage Options

      Once you are ready to buy a home, consult your credit union about competitive interest rates and to find out about your mortgage options, including the term of the loan and the conditions.

    • Mortgage Modifications

      NCUA encourages credit unions to work constructively with residential mortgage borrowers who may be unable to meet their contractual payment obligations.

    • Preparing for Retirement

      Between longer life expectancies and fewer employers offering traditional pension plans, it’s a good idea to take an active role in planning for retirement.

    • Saving for College

      Whether you are saving for your own education or for your children’s, it’s wise to start planning for college as soon as possible.

    • Short Term Loans

      Payday loans (a.k.a. deferred advance loans, cash advance loans, check advance loans, post-dated check loans, or deferred deposit check loans) are loans borrowers promise to repay from their next paycheck or salary deposit.

Pocket Cents
  • Youth

    Have you ever thought about why money is worth anything? It's just paper and ink, or a small piece of stamped metal. To do a lot of things we need to use money. Money can give you choices and independence. Have you ever thought about how you could earn your own money? Or, how much money you should you save? The way you manage your money could determine if are able to buy food, a movie ticket, a pair of jeans, just about everything. Learn about the history of money, why we use it, how to save it, and how to protect it.

  • Teens and Tweens

    You may be thinking about your first checking or savings account, your first job, or even your first car. Soon, you will have the opportunity to pursue your dreams. You could go to college, launch your career, or start a business. No matter what you decide, you will need money to make it happen. It's never too early to learn smart financial habits. Whether saving a portion of a weekly allowance or understanding the deductions on the pay stub from a first job, good money management skills can last a lifetime. In this section, you will not only learn how to prepare financially for life after high school, but also how to avoid scams and common money mistakes.

  • Young Adults

    Are you prepared to make wise and informed financial decisions? Do you know how to recognize predatory credit offers? Can you balance a checkbook? Do you have a savings plan? Smart financial choices you make today could help you can achieve that new car purchase, or sail through an apartment lease or mortgage application. However, money mistakes when you're just starting out can leave you in debt and ruin your credit score. Learn how to live within a budget, handle credit and debt, and build a solid financial foundation for your future.

  • Parents And Educators

    How do you teach kids about money? It may be as simple as talking about your job, taking a trip to the grocery store, or opening a savings account at a credit union to deposit allowance and birthday money. The bottom line is that it’s never too early to start teaching children smart financial habits and the value of money. Educating, motivating, and empowering kids to become regular savers will enable them to keep more of the money they earn. Whether at home or in the classroom, this section will provide you with the tools and resources to teach kids how to grow into financially responsible adults. The reward could mean a life free from the anxieties of debt.

  • Seniors

    Did you know that seniors account for almost 30% of all fraud victims? Whether you are looking for information for yourself or for a loved one, in this section you will learn how to defend against these scams, as well as, find information on reverse mortgages, prepaid funerals, emergency savings, and long-term care. Additionally, you will find articles that will help with money management, post-retirement planning, and maximizing government benefits.

  • Marriage and Family

    You may have a retirement account. But, do you really know how much you should be saving? Do you budget to save, and not just when you have extra money left over in your paycheck? Have you thought about saving for college? Does your family have an emergency fund? Anyone can learn how to save money and invest in their future. In this section, you will learn how to take control of your financial future, including how to defend against fraud and scams, tips on buying a car or home, how to handle credit and debt, and information about credit reports.

  • Servicemembers

    Are you financially ready? Servicemembers and military families face unique financial challenges, whether on active duty, returning to civilian life, or living as a veteran. In recent years, servicemembers have joined the ranks of those who are considered most vulnerable to predatory lenders and identity theft. Most military families today are not saving adequately for retirement, and many do not have an emergency fund. In this section, you will learn how to protect yourself from financial vulnerabilities, as well as, how to budget, save, and handle debt and credit. Additionally, learn about free financial resources, benefits, and special protections offered by the U.S. government for servicemembers and their families.


Paying Off Credit Cards

When your monthly statement comes, there’s a great temptation to pay only the minimum. Don’t do it. Read your statement carefully for information about how long it would take to pay off your account balance if you only pay the minimum payment. It can take years, even decades, to pay it off. If possible always pay the balance in full every month or pay more than the minimum amount. Doing so will help you to establish an excellent credit rating, a score used by lenders to determine the rate you will pay on your loan.

Real World Examples

Suppose when you’re 18, you charge $1,500 worth of clothes and DVDs on a credit card with a 19 percent interest rate.

 

If you repay only the minimum amount each month, and your minimum is 4% of the outstanding balance (the lowest amount permitted by some issuers), you’ll start with a $60 payment. You’ll be more than 26 years old by the time you pay off the debt. That’s 106 payments, and you will have paid more than $889 extra in interest. And, that’s if you charge nothing else on the card, and no other fees are imposed (for example, late charges).

 

If your minimum payment is based on 2.5% of the outstanding balance, you’ll start with a $37.50 payment. You’ll be over 35 years old when you pay off the debt. That’s 208 payments, and you will have paid more than $2,138 in interest, even if you charge nothing else on the account and have no other fees.

 

Wondering how long it will take to pay off your debt? Based on the information you supply, this credit card repayment calculator estimates of how long it will take you to pay off your credit card balance.

Keep Credit Card Use Under Control

Whether you shop online, by telephone, or by mail, a credit card can make buying things much easier. But when you use a credit card, it’s important to keep track of your spending. Incidental and impulse purchases add up. When the bill comes, you have to pay what you owe. Owing more than you can afford to repay can damage your credit rating. Keeping good records can prevent a lot of headaches, especially if there are inaccuracies on your monthly statement. If you notice a problem, report it immediately to the company that issued the card. Usually the instructions for disputing a charge are on your monthly statement. If you use your credit card to order online, by telephone, or by mail, keep copies and printouts with details about the transaction.

These details should include the company’s name, address, and telephone number; the date of your order; a copy of the order form you sent to the company or a list of the stock codes of the items you ordered; the order confirmation code; the ad or catalog from which you ordered (if applicable); any applicable warranties; and the return and refund policies.

Security Tips and More Information

If you use a credit card, charge card, or debit card, take the following precautions:

  • Never lend it to anyone.
  • Never sign a blank charge slip. Draw lines through blank spaces on charge slips above the total so the amount can’t be changed.
  • Never put your account number on the outside of an envelope or on a postcard.
  • Always be cautious about disclosing your account number on the telephone unless you know the person you’re dealing with represents a reputable company.
  • Carry only the cards you expect to use to minimize the damage of a potential loss or theft.
  • Always report lost or stolen credit cards, charge cards, and debit cards to the card issuers as soon as possible. Follow up with a letter that includes your account number, when you noticed the card was missing, and when you first reported the loss.

For more information, visit the Federal Reserve’s Consumer Guide to Credit Cards

Follow these guidelines to avoid credit card debt and create good credit at the same time.

  • Know your financial means and limits, and don't go beyond them. Only charge items that you know you can pay off each month.
  • If you already carry a balance, pay more than the minimum payment (or the most you can afford) to bring down your principal balance. Try to keep your balance as low as possible.
  • Shop around before accepting a credit card offer.
  • Compare APRs. They range from 7.99% to 30.25%.
  • Carry only 1 or 2 major credit cards and avoid using your full credit limit.
  • Read the fine print and disclosures.
  • If you are making payments on several credit cards, try to consolidate them into a single card with a low APR. Alternatively, you should pay off the card with the highest interest rate first.

Here are some other credit card problems to avoid:

  • Balance transfer fees
    A 3% charge is not uncommon for transferring the balance on your old credit card to a new one, usually to get a lower interest rate. For every $1,000, it would cost you $30. Transfer $10,000 and you could pay $300. Look for a cap. Even with a cap, you might pay $75 or more. Decide if it's worth it to transfer your funds and pay a fee in order to get a lower rate. If you don't, you might lose money.
  • Late payment fees
    Late payment fees could run as high as $39. Some cards have a sliding scale, and for any balance over $1,000, you're charged the highest fee.
  • Annual fees
    These fees can be as high as $500, often for a rewards program. But many cards promote "No annual fee" to distract you from their other fees. Choose a card with a fee structure that is right for your circumstances.
  • Transaction fees
    These fees can be up to 5% for cash advances. Want a quick $100 from an ATM? Watch out for a $10 minimum charge.  Read the agreement. And remember, cash advances usually come at a higher interest rate.
  • Over-the-credit limit fee
    These can be up to $39. Again, there's often a sliding scale.
  • Travel penalty
    If you charge purchases outside the United States, your credit card company may add a 1% currency exchange fee. Some credit unions and banks tack on an additional 2 percent. Know before you go.
  • Why reading the fine print matters.
    Penalty fees alone average $113 per year for every American household, but jumps in the interest rate can cost you thousands of dollars over the years.

 

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