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Dollars and Cents, The ABCO FCU Financial BLOG

100 Million Memberships Reached at Credit Unions Nationwide

100 Million Memberships Reached at Credit Unions Nationwide (Source: Credit Union National Association, 8/5/14)

Credit unions have reached and surpassed 100 million memberships nationwide--equating to one in every three Americans, the Credit Union National Association announced in August.

"Clearly, there is growing recognition for credit unions among consumers," said CUNA President/CEO Bill Hampel. "They increasingly understand that a credit union places their interests above all else, particularly in returning financial benefits to consumer members in the forms of lower rates on loans, higher returns on savings, and lower and fewer fees." He added that, in 2013, those financial benefits totaled more than $6 billion.

Hampel pointed out that, as cooperatives, credit unions are owned by their members and exist to provide financial services to those members. Banks, he noted, which are owned by shareholders, exist to return profits to those shareholders.

"It's the structure of credit unions--as not-for-profit, democratically led and cooperatively owned financial institutions--that allows credit unions to maintain this focus on returning financial benefits to members," CUNA leader Hampel said. "In fact, by doing so, credit unions have earned the satisfaction and trust of their existing members--and are attracting even more.

In 2013, the Chicago Booth Kellogg School Financial Trust Index showed that consumers trust credit unions more than banks. The index, sponsored jointly by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, showed trust in credit unions is 62% while trust in big banks is 28%.

Hundreds of credit union members have shared their credit union stories with their photo on and social media to show they are part of an organization that focuses on their best financial interests. Learn more about the 100 million credit union memberships nationwide milestone by visiting

Trojans, Viruses, Phishing Scams, Oh My: Protecting Yourself from Malware & Fraud

Perhaps you read our recent alert regarding a fraudulent e-mail circulating that was trying to get unsuspecting folks to supply their credit union account information. This is what is known as a phishing attempt. Unfortunately, these types of attacks are common in the financial industry. And the cyber criminals are getting smarter and smarter - fraud and identity theft cases are on the rise.

Fortunately, there are several simple things you can do right now to make yourself less vulnerable to these types of attacks.

1) Update your software. Software companies are constantly releasing updates to their operating systems and browsers. One of the primary reasons they do this is to provide "patches" for security threats that have been identified. If you are running out of date software your computer is more susceptible to be infected by a virus or trojan. If you haven't already, set up your operating system and browser to automatically update. Or check for updates regularly.

2) Install anti-virus software, preferably with an anti-phishing component. This is so important. Running a computer without anti-virus software is like driving a car without insurance. Eventually it's going to catch up with you. Paid anti-virus software like Norton 360 and BitDefender AntiVirus Plus are going to offer you the most comprehensive protection. However, if you can't afford those versions, there is high-quality, free anti-virus software available for download on the web. Here are some of the heavy-hitters:

AVG Antivirus
avast! Antivirus
Microsoft Security Essentials

3) Download a safe-browsing add-on for your browser. Add-ons like WOT are available for all popular browsers including Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Apple Safari. WOT will place color-coded reputation symbols on links in search engine results, social media, online email, and many popular sites to show how much other users trust a site. Ratings are based on information from millions of users and trusted third-party sources. Installing an add-on of this sort will help you decide whether or not a link in your e-mail is safe and help protect you from a phishing scam, for example.

4) Speaking of phishing scams, keep in mind that your financial institution will never ask you to provide or "update" information like your account number via e-mail. If you receive an e-mail of this sort, delete it. Cyber criminals have gotten very good at making an e-mail look as though it's coming from your financial institution. If it asks for your account information, no matter how legitimate it may seem, delete it.

5) Lastly, simply be mindful of your web activity. Try to only visit sites you trust and pay attention to what you're clicking on and downloading. If something seems "off", don't proceed. Use your gut instinct. Often sites that contain free downloads, games, etc. are fraught with malware. Be especially careful when using peer-to-peer sharing sites.

Following these tips will help ensure a safe online experience. Happy surfing!

Roth or Traditional IRA: Which Is Right For You

So you're thinking about opening an IRA but you're not sure whether a Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA is right for you. People often ask which is 'better'. The answer is... it depends.

When it comes to deciding on a Roth or Traditional IRA, there are a few questions you'll want to ask yourself. The first question is... do I want to pay taxes now or later? Roth and Traditional IRAs have significantly different tax rules. With a Traditional IRA, you can deposit into your account using pretax dollars, but you pay taxes on the principal and earnings when the money is withdrawn. Contributions to your Roth IRA must be after tax funds, but you won't have to pay taxes on the principal or the earnings when the money is withdrawn. When you deposit into your Traditional IRA using pretax dollars, it may reduce your taxable income, which will give you a bit of a tax break. Not so with the Roth, but remember with the Roth you may earn money on the funds you contributed that will never be taxed. So the question becomes - do you need the income tax break now? Or can you forgo the taxbreak for the prospect of taxfree earnings later?

The second question you'll want to ask yourself is, at what age do I think I'll need the funds I'm planning to put in this account? In addition to strict tax rules, IRAS also have some age requirements. Withdraws from both IRAs begin at age 59 1/2. With a Traditional IRA, withdraws are mandatory by age 70 1/2. With a Roth IRA, there is no mandatory distribution age. If you don't foresee needing the money in your IRA account until 75 or even 80, the Roth IRA might be the better option for you.

The third question you want to ask yourself is - might I need to withdraw this money before retirement? There is a difference in how early withdrawals are handled with each IRA. When you withdraw money early from a traditional IRA you will have to pay taxes and a 10% penalty on both the contributions to that account and the earnings. If you take an early withdrawal from your Roth IRA, you will pay taxes and a 10% penalty on the account earnings only. Not the contributions. (There are exceptions for both accounts which will allow you to take an early withdrawal penalty free). If you think there is a possibility you may need to withdraw this money before age 59 1/2, withdrawing from a Roth may be less costly.

One final thing to keep in mind is, there are income limits. For tax year 2012, you may open a Roth IRA only if your adjusted gross income is less than $125,000 if you are a single filer and $179,000 if you are married and file jointly. If you don't meet those requirements, you won't be eligible to open a Roth IRA.

So you can see why there is no easy answer to this question. Sit down with a nice cup of tea and weigh the variables. Use these questions as a starting point. And if all else fails, contact your tax accountant.

Five Ways Your Credit Union Can Save You Money in 2012

Perhaps you're feeling the pinch after holiday spending. Or maybe you're just looking to save more in the coming year. The following is a handful of ways your credit union can help you cut costs without sacrificing your current lifestyle:

1) Refinance! With mortgage and auto loan rates at historic lows, now is a great time to refinance your home or vehicle. You could knock up to $30/month off your car payment or hundreds off your monthly mortgage payment.

2) Transfer high rate credit card balances! Like refinancing can save you money on your home or auto loan, transferring your high-interest credit card balances to a lower interest card can mean significant savings. ABCO FCU Visas currently start at 6.75% APR*.

3) Take advantage of our checking accounts with no monthly maintenance fees! With bank checking account monthly fees on the rise, just having a checking account could end up costing hundreds of dollars a year! Switch to an ABCO FCU checkng account and make your yearly checking account cost $0.

4) Tired of paying $2-3 every time you need to take money out of an ATM? You should be. Those fees can really add up! Start using an ABCO FCU debit card. ABCO FCU is part of the Allpoint & CO-OP surcharge-free ATM networks. Use your ABCO FCU debit card surcharge-free at over 50,000 locations!

5) Lastly, take advantage of the discounts offered to you as a credit union member. ABCO FCU members receive 10% off Sprint Plans, 5% Enterprise car rentals, $15 off FTD Flowers and other discounts as part of the Invest in America credit union member incentives program.

The new year is a good time to make changes. Review your budget and your expenses, figure out where you can save and make it happen.

Best wishes to you in the new year.

Five Tips for Pre-Disaster Financial Preparedness

Hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding, oh my! Over the past month, New Jersey residents have experienced the type of natural disasters we usually only read about in the newspaper or see on TV. Disaster preparedness may be something you've never given much thought to before; now is the time.Preparing ahead of time for these types of unforeseen events could prove vital. Here are a list of suggestions for financial preparedness in the event of a disaster:

1) Make sure your family's health, life, and property are protected with adequate insurance. Haven't thought much about your homeowner's or life insurance policy lately? Now may be a good time to review your coverages to ensure you're sufficiently covered in the event of a disaster. If you feel confident your insurance needs are being met, take the time to create an inventory checklist. This will ensure you receive the reimbursement you're entitled to in the event disaster strikes.

2) Create a "Financial First Aid Kit." Place all important documents into one waterproof bag that can be retrieved quickly in the event you need to evacuate quickly. Keep this bag in a fire-proof safe. The bag should include:

a. Birth Certificate(s)/Adoption Papers b. Social Security Card(s) c. Passport/Green Card d. Naturalization Documents e. Marriage License f. Divorce Papers g. Will h. Power(s) of Attorney (personal/property) i. Mortgage or Real Estate Deeds of Trust j. Vehicle Registration/Ownership Papers k. Tax documents

3) Sign up for direct deposit of your paycheck/federal benefits check. Keep in mind a disaster can disrupt mail service for days or even weeks. For those who depend on the mail for their Social Security benefits, a difficult situation can become worse if they are evacuated or lose their mail service. Switching to electronic payments will ensure your money is in your account regardless of whether the mail service is operating or your financial institution is open.

4) Sign up for an ATM/Check Card or emergency credit card. Having an ATM or credit card handy will ensure your access to necessary funds in the event of a disaster. Your ABCO FCU ATM/Check Card will allow you to withdraw cash from over 300,000 ATMS worldwide. Designate one credit card for emergency use only. It should have enough available credit to accommodate purchases of food and supplies for a week or more. Making purchases on a credit card will also help you document disaster related expenses, which may be reimbursed by your insurance company or other assistance program.

5) Keep some cash handy. Have some emergency cash or traveler's checks set aside in a safe, secure place. How much you need depends on your family's circumstances, but a few hundred dollars may be good. It should be easily accessible. Remember that banks and ATMs may be inaccessible if there are power outages, curfews or mandatory evacuations.

Lastly, heed the warnings and suggestions of your state and local authorites. They have your best interests at heart.

10 Things to Love About Your Credit Union in the Summertime...

1) "Summer, summer summertime... time to sit back and unwind..." (That's what Will Smith said, anyway...) Whether you're planning a trip to the Jersey shore or to Paris, we have money to lend to help you make it happen. Personal loan rates start at 10.9% APR* and are available in a variety of terms.

2) If you are heading to the land of croissants and cafes (or elsewhere abroad), you may want to think about opening an ABCO FCU Visa card. Your ABCO Visa will be accepted at locations worldwide and is available at a low fixed rate starting at just 10.9% APR*.

3) Whether you're in Wildwood, France, or just in your backyard, keep on top of your finances with ABCO's online banking and bill payer. Newly redesigned, ABCO's online banking and bill payer offers a simple and secure way to access your accounts and pay bills from anywhere with an Internet connection.

4) Thinking about adding solar panels to your home, building a new deck, or giving EP Henry a call to update your landscaping? An ABCO Home Equity Line if Credit is a fantastic option for financing home improvements. Home Equity Line of Credit rates start at just 4.5% APR*. At that rate, a Home Equity Line of Credit is just about the most economical financing option you're going to find.

5) If you own a seasonal business like landscaping or pool installation, don't forget ABCO also offers a full range of business services including business loans, business checking, and even credit and debit card processing services. Contact a business services officer at 1.800.225.1859 ext. 7613 to learn more.

6) Is Jack or Jill heading to college in the fall? ABCO FCU offers a low-interest private student loan option.

7) While the kids are home for the summer, give them a financial education with Balance Track Personal Education Center. Balance Track offers online education modules on all of the core aspects of personal financial management. Upon completion your child will be on the way to sound money management. A complimentary service offered to you by your credit union.

8) If you have a summer baby on the way, with the rising cost of higher education it's never too soon to start saving for your child's education. Talk to one of our financial professionals at the CU Financial Insurance Group about opening a 529 or other educational savings plan. Call 1-888-439-0770.

9) Ahh... summer. There's nothing like driving with the windows down on a summer night... listening to your favorite song, or just taking in the smell of barbecues and fresh cut grass in the air. That experience could be slightly less enjoyable if you keep running into car problems. Take advantage of our Summer Auto Event and finance a 2007-2011 with our vehicle loan starting at just 3.99% APR*.

10) No-fee checking accounts. While many banks are now charging for checking accounts that were once free, checking at your credit union remains without a monthly fee. In fact, according to a recent study, a bank customer will pay more than twice, sometimes almost as much as three times as much, for the same services and benefits as a credit union member. Learn more about our checking accounts.

*Annual Percentage Rate.

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