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File Your Taxes Early

2/10/2021

Four Reasons to File Your Taxes Early

1. Get Your Refund Faster

Since many people tend to procrastinate, you can get your refund much sooner. The fastest method to receive your refund is to file electronically and have your refund deposited directly into your Connected Credit Union account with direct deposit. Working with Connected CU, the IRS will transmit your refund directly to your desired account. Our routing and transit number 211287353 and your account number are all you need.  It can take several weeks longer if you opt for a paper return.

2. More Time to Pay

If you end up owing a balance to the IRS, you will have more time to save money for your payment by filing early. This allows three to four months of extra time that you wouldn’t have had if you had filed later. Filing early will let you know exactly how much you owe to the IRS.

3. Easier Scheduling a Tax Preparer

Accountants and tax professionals are also first come, first serve. Their schedules can fill up by the time you reach out to them if you wait too long. If you aren’t completely confident when filing your taxes, hiring someone can help you accurately complete your form.

4. Prevent Identity Theft

As soon as a criminal gets access to your Social Security Number, they can do a lot of damage. If they file with your Social Security number before you do, the IRS will decline your return since their records show you’ve already been paid. You haven’t, but the criminal has been. It can take months to clear this up with the IRS. If you can, file your taxes early and prevent the fraudsters from successfully filing a fraudulent return.

Learn more about filing your 2021 taxes online

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2021 Tax Scams

1/29/2021

Tax Scams to Watch Out For

Suspended/Cancelled Social Security Number

A new social security scam is based around a robocall that claims your social security number is going to be suspended or cancelled because of owed taxes. The scam uses fear tactics to trick recipients into calling the number back and giving away personal information. However, your social security number will never be suspended and the IRS will only contact you through the mail or in person.

Digital Messages

Another scam is fraudsters pretending to be the IRS by sending you an email or text message reminding you to file your taxes or claiming to have information about your refund. However, if you click the link in the message to file your taxes you will be brought to a spoofed site.  A spoofed site is a site that is almost identical to the original site but is run by scammers.  The site will send scammers any information you input making it easy for them to steal your identity. The message may also contain malware that would infect your computer and allow fraudsters to steal your data, such as passwords and PINs. The IRS will not send unsolicited emails or any other type of digital messages such as a text or social media message.

Fake Letters

Since the IRS typically only sends letters, fraudsters have begun to send out letters claiming to be from the Bureau of Tax Enforcement. However, the Bureau of Tax Enforcement does not actually exist. Official IRS letters will also have a notice (CP) or letter (LTR) number on the top or bottom right-hand corner of the letter. You can verify this number by going to the IRS website.

Ghost Tax Preparers

Ghost Tax Preparers are fraudsters claiming that they are professional tax preparers. However, they may charge for a percentage of your refund, claim fake deductions to boost refunds, and/or direct the refund into their own account instead of yours. Ghost Tax Preparers also refuse to sign a return, making you responsible for their errors. Before you hire someone to help you file your taxes, make sure they have a valid 2021 Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). If you are looking for a certified tax preparer, you can search through the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications.

We’re Here to Help!

From answering your questions about fraud prevention to helping you take the proper steps in the event you are the victim of a scam, our member service team is ready to help you.

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Financial New Year’s Resolutions

12/30/2020

Four Financial New Year's Resolutions for 2021

1. Start an Emergency Fund
Life can be unpredictable, which is why having an emergency fund is so important. It’s often recommended that you have three to six months' worth of expenses saved away in the event of an emergency.


2. Check Your Credit Score
Check your score from each of the three main credit bureaus in 2021 – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can check your score from each bureau for free once a year. Checking your score can tell you where your credit stands, ensure that your credit information is accurate, allow you to respond to changes quickly, and give insight on how it can be improved.

 

3. Try the 52-Week Money Challenge
If you often give up on financial resolutions because you’re not seeing immediate results, try the 52-week money challenge. You start by saving away $1.00 during the first week of the year, gradually increasing your savings by a dollar each week throughout 2021. You’ll save away $2.00 during the second week, $3.00 in the third week, and ultimately saving away $52.00 in the last week of the year. By the end of the year, if you complete the challenge, you’ll have saved $1,378.00. 

52 WEEK CHALLENGE CHART


4. Do Your Taxes Early
If you traditionally wait until the last minute to file your taxes, make it a goal to do so earlier. As many people tend to procrastinate, you can get your refund much sooner. Also, filing early can help prevent identity theft. As soon as a criminal gets access to your Social Security Number, they can do a lot of damage. If they file with your Social Security number before you do, the IRS will decline your return since their records show you’ve already been paid. It can take months to clear this up with the IRS. If you can, file your taxes early and prevent the fraudsters from successfully filing a fraudulent return.

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Debit Card Holds

11/2/2020

Debit Card Holds

What is a debit card hold?

When you use a debit card, the store clerk usually contacts the financial institution that issued your card to get authorization. When the approval is given, the balance in your checking account is reduced or “blocked” by the amount of the purchase. This is known as a pre-authorization hold. The merchant determines the amount of the hold. Your financial institution establishes the length of time the hold remains in place. Typically the hold stays on your account until the funds are transferred to the merchant from your financial institution, often 3-4 days. If you look at your account online it may show as a pending transaction. Since transactions done with your PIN (personal identification number) are processed on the same day, they do not require a hold.

How can a debit card hold create problems?

In a few situations, the dollar amount of the transaction is unknown when approval is given. This may happen when you check into a hotel room, pay for gas at the pump, or use your debit card to pay for your meal at a restaurant. In each of these transactions, the merchant may get approval for a higher (estimated) amount– allowing for a tip, room service, additional or higher purchase amounts.

Let’s say you have $60 in your account when you use your debit card to pay for gas at the pump. Since the purchase amount is unknown when you insert your card, the merchant requests authorization for $50. The authorization causes a hold to be placed on your account for $50 and your available balance is reduced to $10. If you only purchased $20 in gas you may believe you have $40 available in your account. Unless you understand how a hold affects your account, your debit card could be declined in future transactions. This can be embarrassing and inconvenient. It could also be costly. If checks or other transactions are processed before the hold is released you may overdraw your account and incur overdraft fees.

How can you avoid these problems?

  • When a business asks for your card in advance of service – ask if the company will request a pre-authorization hold, the amount of the hold, and how the amount is determined. Be sure the hold won’t exceed your account balance.

  • Pay the charges with the same card you used at the beginning of the transaction. Ask the clerk when the hold will be removed.

  • Prior to making a purchase that will involve payment with a different card, by cash, or by check, inform the clerk of the different form of payment and inquire about their policy on reversing holds.

  • Protect yourself from overdrafts with Member Privilege it requires no action on your part - unless you would like to have access for ATM and everyday debit card transactions.  The paid item fee is $29.00 for each item created by check, in-person withdrawals, recurring debit card transactions, or other electronic means. You may request to "Opt In" for coverage that includes access at the ATM and for everyday debit card purchases.

  • Use your PIN when paying for gas at the pump or consider using another method of payment (cash, check or credit card).

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YOUR FICO SCORE AND YOU

10/1/2020

What is a Fico® Credit Score & How is it Calculated?

A FICO® score is a type of credit score created by the Fair Isaac Corporation. Lenders use borrowers’ FICO scores along with other details on borrowers’ credit reports to assess credit risk and determine whether to extend credit. Here is how a FICO score is calculated:

35%  Payment History: The first thing any lender wants to know is whether you’ve paid past credit accounts on time.

30% Amounts Owed: When a high percentage of a person’s available credit has been used, this can indicate that a person is overextended, and is more likely to miss or make late payments.

15%  Length of Credit History: In general, a longer credit history will increase your score.

10% Credit Mix In Use: FICO Scores will consider your mix of credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, finance company accounts and mortgage loans.

10% New Credit: Research shows that opening several credit accounts in a short period of time represents a greater risk – especially for people who don’t have a long credit history.

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College Financial Tips

9/1/2020

Top 5 Financial Tips for College Freshman

1. Avoid High Bookstore Prices

  • Buy or borrow books used from upperclassmen who have already taken the class.
  • Check prices from book resellers such as Amazon and eBay for the best prices.
  • Consider renting your books for the semester instead of buying.

2. Use Credit Responsibility

  • Read the fine print on too good to be true credit card offers.
  • Since you are beginning to build your credit, you should start with a credit card with a low interest rate with no annual fee.
  • Avoid acquiring multiple credit cards and racking up debt that you cannot pay off.

3. Minimize Student Debt

  • Remember that student loans should be used for tuition, books, housing, and meal plans – not spent on an extravagant social life.
  • Get a part-time job or a work-study position to earn extra money.
  • Even though student loans aren’t due until after graduation, start paying them off as soon as you can to minimize the total amount due upon graduation.

4.  Set a Spending Limit

  • Costs from unnecessary purchases can add up fast, especially when you are living on a budget.
  • Set a limit of your non-essential spending in your budget, such as $50 or $100 per month.
  • If you come in under your spending limit at the end of the month, save the extra money.

5. Utilize Connected Credit Union's Services

  • If you are moving away for college, you can still do your normal banking via Shared Branching. With over 5,400 locations across the nation, chances are you’ll be close to a CO-OP Shared Branching location. Find a location
  • Earn rewards through your Connected Debit Card on everyday purchases! With our UChoose rewards program, you'll earn rewards to redeem for cash, travel or gift cards when you sign for your purchases instead of using your PIN. Remember: Sign, don't PIN, it's a win/win. Learn More
  • Download the Connected CU mobile app for convenient banking anywhere, anytime. Check your account balance, mobile deposit a check, transfer funds and more!  It is available in the App Store and on Google Play.

          Download on the App Store Get it on Google Play

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Business Member Spotlight

8/6/2020

 

Member Highlights

 

 

Brandon's Landscape Management Inc., owned by our member Brandon Moore, has been providing the Waterville area with high-quality landscaping services since 2003. Brandon’s Landscaping Management Inc. provides spring and fall clean-up, mowing and trimming, mulch bed maintenance, plantings, hedge trimmings, and more.

 

If your home or business needs landscaping, contact Brandon’s Landscape Management Inc. at 351 Unity Rd Benton, ME 04901 by calling 207-453-2911 or emailing brandon@brandonslandscapeinc.com.

 

At Connected Credit Union, we’re here for you and your business! Contact us today to learn more about how we can help with our business services including savings accounts, checking accounts, mortgages, lines of credit, low rate equipment and auto loans.

 

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Budgeting made easy!

8/5/2020

3 POPULAR BUDGETS YOU CAN STICK TO

Creating your budget can be hard, and following it can seem even harder. With so many different types of budgets you can use, choosing one that will work for you may seem impossible. We’ve got three popular and helpful budgets that suit different types of financial goals and personalities.

 

 

Pay Yourself First Budget  

Best For: Savers

Steps:

  1. Start with your monthly income
  2. Pay yourself first, by subtracting money for your savings goals
  3. Pay Regular Bills
  4. Decide what to do with the surplus, you’ve already met your savings goals so it’s up to you!

50/20/30 Budget

Best For: Spenders

Steps:

  1. Start with your monthly income
  2. 50% of your incomes goes to housing, transportation, utilities, and groceries
  3. 20% of your income goes to savings, retirement, and debt repayment
  4. 30% of your incomes goes to lifestyle expenses, such as entertainment and childcare

Zero-Based Budget

Best For: Regular Monthly Income

Steps:

  1. Start with your monthly income
  2. Subtract out your monthly expenses, such as rent and food expenses
  3. Subtract out your variable expenses, such as entertainment and clothing expenses
  4. Account for your savings goals, such as an emergency fund
  5. Have a bottom line of $0 – every dollar should be accounted for
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