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Which home renovations have the highest return on investment?

If you're thinking about making a home renovation, you probably want to make choices that satisfy both your own desires and those of prospective buyers—especially if you're considering selling your home in the next decade. While it's difficult to place a value on the satisfaction that a renovation brings you, we can help to make a decision that will bring you the greatest return on your investment when it comes to resale value. Here are the top five home renovations that will reap the greatest reward when it comes time to sell your home:

The Fastest Ways to Pay Off Your Credit Cards

If you’ve decided that it’s time to get serious about paying off your credit cards, congratulations! Getting debt free will allow you to have more control over your money and give you greater flexibility as you make big life choices like changing jobs or buying a house. Below, we outline a few strategies to pay off your credit cards as quickly as possible. With all of these methods, remember that the more you can pay toward your debt each month, the faster you’ll get those cards down to a zero balance.

Topics: Bank
Tips for Teaching Your Kids to Save

Your kids are learning subjects like reading, science, and mathematics in school- but are they learning good financial behavior?

A few simple activities can teach your children about budgeting and saving.

How to Avoid the Top 5 Money Mistakes College Students Make

When you’re balancing all-nighters, a full course load, Bachelor viewing parties and a part-time job, your latte-a-day habit might seem like a necessity. And hey, aren’t you going to college so that you have money to make up for your growing credit card debt in the future?

The thing is, you’re creating a foundation for your financial life now, and avoiding the biggest mistakes that most college students make will give you the freedom to do what you want to down the road. Here's how to set yourself up for financial success through 

Topics: Bank
What It Means to Co-Sign a Loan

Who doesn’t love the buddy system? Pairs feel so much more supportive. Well, have you ever considered a buddy when it comes to loans? We call that a co-signer.

Topics: Borrow
Options to Pay Off Student Loans

Whether you’re just at the beginning of your college experience and trying to figure out how much to take out in student loans, or you’re a graduate already making payments on your debt, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. But paying off your student loans isn’t impossible! In this post, we’ll walk you through a few different tactics so that you can find a manageable route to freedom.

Topics: Borrow
What Are My Options to Pay for College?

With the average cost of tuition and fees soaring to $33,480 per year at private universities, and $24,930 per year for out-of-state students at public universities, the cost of college can feel utterly overwhelming. However, before you give up on getting a degree, take heart: there are lots of options for financing your education.

Topics: Borrow
Student Loans: How Much Should You Borrow?

College is an investment in your future, but how much should you be borrowing against your future self? If you’ve heard about the student debt crisis, you know that college graduates are taking on more debt than ever, with the average student loan debt hitting $35,000 in 2016. That debt often influences the kinds of jobs borrowers wind up taking, and can delay major life events like buying a home, getting married, and having children.

So how much should you borrow if you don’t want your debt to hold you back in the future? Here are a few things to think about that will help you make a more informed decision:

What is a Money Market Account?

Money market accounts (MMAs) are interest-bearing accounts that typically earn higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts.

These accounts require you to maintain a minimum balance, but allow limited access to your funds. So how else do money market accounts differ from other savings accounts?

Topics: Invest Saving
How to Handle a Pay Increase

There isn't a feeling quite like getting a raise, or a new job that comes with a pay increase.

It’s fiscal validation that your boss or employer is happy with your hard work. It’s a sign of appreciation and approval. More often than not, one of the first things you want to do is shout it out from the rooftops and celebrate with a huge purchase.

But before you do, here are a few quick tips to ensure your new money is working as hard as you are.

Topics: Invest
Should You Open an HSA?

Should you open an HSA?

Well first, let’s define it: HSA (Health Savings Account): A tax-free medical savings account available to taxpayers in the United States who are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP).

So that necessitates another definition, right? What exactly is a HDHP? An HDHP is a health insurance plan with lower premiums and higher deductibles than a traditional health plan. Being covered by an HDHP is a requirement for having a health savings account.

Increasingly, employers are offering HDHPs as their health insurance benefit of choice. This means lower premiums for you, but higher deductibles. If you have an HDHP, you’re eligible for an HSA, so read on.  

How To Begin Investing
Ah, investing. The clarion call of a Warren Buffet-esque existence is hard to resist. But before you go make a fortune off graphene stocks, here are some basic do’s and don’ts.
Topics: Invest
When Waiting for a Free Balance Transfer May Not Be Worth It

So you’ve found yourself in a little bit of credit card debt. It’s okay—it’s possible you can pay it off without spending a fortune on fees or interest.

An easy way to do this is to transfer your balance from one credit card to another. Essentially, you’d use one credit card to pay off another credit card and end up consolidating your debt. However, you’re usually charged a fee or percentage rate by the receiving card to make the transfer. Some credit card companies run a 0% interest or free balance transfer promotion from time to time. You might be thinking, “Shouldn’t I just wait for one of these promos and continue to pay interest because right now the transfer rate is high?” Well, that might not always be the best situation.

Here’s why.

Topics: Borrow
Do's and Don'ts for a Successful Mortgage Closing

Whether you are purchasing your home or refinancing it, please keep the following do’s and don’ts in mind after you’ve applied with USALLIANCE. 

Topics: Borrow
How to Plan a Big Trip on a Small Budget

Just because you’re on a limited budget doesn’t mean that travel is out of the question. All it takes is some ingenuity and flexibility to set yourself off on a big adventure. If you’re willing to think outside the box, bump up your savings or income, and do a bit of research, your next trip is within reach!

Topics: Bank
3 Books for Millennials Who Want to Get Rich

If you’re a Millennial, chances are that the mention of the words “finance books” makes you glaze over. But it’s also likely that a conversation about getting rich will make you perk up! For a generation that spent early adulthood in the recession, getting on stable financial footing might take a little more guidance and patience than it did for the previous generation.

Topics: Bank
How to Save for a Down Payment

The number one thing holding most people back from owning a home is jumping the hurdle of a 20% down payment. For most people, saving such a big chunk of money seems insurmountable. However, with determination, commitment and a little creativity, you can set yourself up to purchase a home within a fairly short period of time.

Topics: Borrow
How Recent College Grads Can Build Credit

Practically every guide to setting off on the right financial foot begins with the following warning: you must have good credit if you want to get anywhere. 

Topics: Bank
Four Must-Have Insurance Policies

Life is full of gains, losses, and unpredictable curveballs that can throw you off your game. No matter how careful or cautious you are, there isn’t a way to avoid illness, accidents or disasters. If something does go wrong, it’s important to be insured.

Topics: Protect
What I Learned from Losing My Debit Card

I consider myself a pretty responsible person when it comes to managing my money.

I keep an eye on my credit score, pay my bills on time, and make sure I don’t overspend. I put most of my purchases on my credit card to build my credit, get points, and track my spending. I tend to only use my debit card when I need cash.

Topics: Protect Bank
Can Bad Credit Kill Your Relationship?

Whether your relationship began with a meet cute, a long friendship, or a swipe right, if things are beginning to get serious it’s time for you to sit down and talk about your credit score with your partner. Yes, it sounds about as fun as taking a long walk over a beach of hot coals, but with finances being the leading cause of stress in relationships, it’s important to figure out if you’re on the same page before making any more moves toward a future together.

Topics: Bank
The Benefits of Filing Your Taxes Early

Ah, April. The sun is shining. The birds are singing, and tax-paying procrastinators everywhere would rather go to the dentist than deal with taxes. But once you discover the benefits of filing your taxes early, you might realize that the dreaded paperwork isn't so bad after all.


Topics: Bank
Running for Matty and Kayla

For those of you who don't know me, I'm Dan O'Brien and I'm a solution architect here at USALLIANCE.

This is my third year running the Boston Marathon. It’s also my third year running on behalf of the organization Credit Union Kids at Heart, which works with Boston Children’s Hospital to fund research on pediatric illnesses. This year we’re supporting research on Moyamoya disease, Sturge-Weber syndrome, pediatric brain cancer, and Cerebral Palsy.

A Day in the Life of a Boston Marathon Runner

I'm Dan, your typical family man, solution architect at USALLIANCE, and marathon runner for a cause.

This is my third time running the Boston Marathon with Credit Union Kids at Heart. This great organization funds many research projects at Boston Children’s Hospital to fight pediatric diseases. Running the Boston Marathon is definitely not an easy task, but I’ve found it’s easier when you’re passionate about your cause and also get into a strict training schedule.

USALLIANCE Runs the Boston Marathon

It was right after the devastating 201 Boston Marathon when Dan O'Brien joined USALLIANCE.

Loving husband and father, it wasn't long before Dan discovered Credit Union Kids at Heart, an organization that works with Boston Children's Hospital to fund several pediatric research projects. This is where a project became a passion and ultimately turned a solution architect into a cause-driven marathon runner.

Everything You Need to Know About Mobile Wallets

Will that be cash, check, or mobile wallet?

With smartphone technology continuously on the rise, it’s no surprise that mobile wallets have started to make the occasional appearance in checkout lines. Since USALLIANCE accounts are compatible with Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, and VISA Checkout, we gathered some basic information to explain this new way to pay.

Topics: Bank
Alternative Ways to Manage Your Savings

There more ways to manage your savings than you probably think.

Learning how to handle your savings can be intimidating, with new options seeming more complicated than the traditional ones. You're probably already familiar with a simple savings account, but there are also non-traditional options like a club account or CD account you can explore too.

All of these options have certain benefits, so it might pay off for you to leave your financial comfort zone and learn about the options you have when it comes to managing your savings.

Topics: Invest Bank
How to Go Green With Your Money

Everyone’s trying to create less waste.

You recycle. You carpool. You donate your old things. You print less. The financial sector is doing the same. With all the different ways you can use less paper, going green with your finances is super easy and convenient. Here are a few ways you can start making that transition.

Topics: Bank
Is Debt Consolidation the Right Choice for You?

It should come as no surprise that one of the most popular New Year's resolutions is "getting out of debt."

If getting rid of debt is your personal mission this year, debt consolidation may seem like the perfect solution. But, is it? The answer is maybe. Let’s start with a definition. Debt consolidation is rolling multiple old debts into a single new one, presumably at a lower interest rate to make payments more manageable, resulting in quicker repayment.  Sounds like a good plan- but will it work for you?

Topics: Borrow
Financial Resolutions to Make Before the New Year

As the holiday festivities come to an end, we start to look at the New Year as an opportunity to start fresh.

Fueled by the nostalgia of tradition, we have an overwhelming desire to kiss bad habits goodbye. We want to lose weight, become more organized, or maybe commit to learning a new language. If you’re making promises to makeover elements of your life, your finances should be no exception. So we’ve created a short list of resolutions you could make to become financially fit this year.

Topics: Bank
All About Overdraft

If you only have $75, you can't spend $100, right?

Well, that’s not always the case. When you use your debit card to make a transaction without monitoring how much money you have available, it’s possible to overdraw your bank or credit union account.

The first thing you need to understand is what happens behind the scenes when you make a transaction. Let's break it down:

Topics: Protect Bank
How a Shot in the Arm Got Me a New Credit Card

Flu season is almost here. And each year, I avoid getting a flu shot. The “rational” me knows that it can help but there’s one huge hurdle I can’t seem to get over.

I’m afraid of shots. Terrified that’s it’s going to hurt – a lot. And this fear stops me from doing something that deep down, I know I really should.

Credit cards aren’t on the same level as flu shots but I find I have the same reaction when I think about opening a new card. Fear. Afraid that I will do irreparable damage to the great credit score I’ve worked so hard to achieve. Even though I really would like an alternative to the card I’m currently using. They say the best way to deal with fear is to face it head on. So I did some research. And what I found was pleasantly surprising and reassuring, so I decided to take the leap and apply for a new card.

Topics: Borrow Bank
Reasons Your Credit Card Could Be Declined

There's nothing worse than hearing "I'm sorry, your card has been declined."

Red shame creeps up your neck while you try to stay calm and offer the cashier an alternate form of payment. You probably are growing anxious, wondering how this could have happened. But take a few deep breaths- there are several potential reasons the transaction didn’t go through.

Topics: Bank
When to Break Up With Your Bank

"The timing was just right." When breaking up with your bank is the move you just have to make.

Flashback to November 5, 2011- the very first Bank Transfer Day- the one day when consumers were closing accounts at the big banks in favor of not-for-profit credit unions. That day 664,000 people made the switch. Since then Bank Transfer Day has become an annual event.

But what about the other 364 days of the year?

Topics: Bank
Are You Ready to Buy a Home?

There's no place like home, right?

And right now, that home probably looks like the apartment(s) you’ve been renting over the last few years. The thought of owning your own space has entered your mind before, but you don’t know if you’re ready or able to make that step.

Before even jumping into finances, it’s important you think through your plans for your future and ask yourself some questions about your present and future circumstances.

Topics: Borrow
The 411 on Your 401(k)

With most employers, a new job comes with new benefits.

Sometimes this includes a vacation package, health care and a 401(k). Often times, your 401(k) is the one benefit that you’d much rather read later. And before you know it later turns into three years. So before you close your benefits folder and lock it away in your office drawer, get the 4-1-1 on some 401(k) basics. 

Topics: Invest
Budgeting for Beginners

So you're finally receiving paychecks regularly, kind of like a real, responsible adult.

That’s right, you have a real job, which means you have paychecks arriving straight into your MyLife Checking account from your employer. Thank you, direct deposit. But also, scorn you, direct deposit, because now that money might just burn a hole in your pocket if you’re not careful. So, how do you become more careful with your hard-earned money?

Topics: Bank
Big Changes Coming to usalliance.org

Our website is about to change!

As we turn the big "Five Oh" this summer, we have realized that our website is long overdue for a new "do." We're grateful to our members for keeping us around for the last 50 years, so we wanted to create a website that can keep up with the ever-changing technological scope that you have come to expect. Hopefully it'll have you saying "wow, looking good for 50!"

Topics: Press Release
Top Factors That Impact Your Credit Score

Age might be just a number, but your credit score is a little bit more than just that.

Your credit score (aka three digits that represent your credit files) determines how creditworthy you are and informs lenders on whether to approve you for a loan or credit card. This number is calculated based on multiple factors that hold different weights. Though each reporting agency measures your score a little differently, you’ll likely find these top score-determining factors wherever you look.

Topics: Bank
Steps to Take If You're a Victim of a Data Breach

What exactly is a data breach anyways?

Let’s start with an example. In 2013 Target announced that nearly 70 million customers’ names, credit card numbers, expiration dates, card verification codes, mailing addresses, and email addresses had been hacked from their credit and debit card devices used during the holiday shopping period.

The 2013 Target incident is the best explanation of exactly what a data breach is — someone hacking into a secure system to steal all of your account information. 

It’s considered to be a modern-day robbery of your cash and savings accounts.  

Topics: Protect
Should You Refinance Your Car?

First of all, what is auto refinancing anyway?

When someone decides to refinance their car, they are essentially taking out another loan from a bank or lender to pay off their previous loan.

For example, let’s say you bought a car and the dealership sets you up with their finance department. After a year or so, you’ve come to realize that you could qualify for a better interest rate with a credit union or bank. So you request a loan with that institution to pay off the loan that you have with your car dealership, and now you only owe the institution what you borrowed.

Topics: Borrow
Terms Every First Time Homebuyer Should Know

Are you getting ready to buy your first home?

Before you shop for a mortgage, it’s important to become familiar with the industry terms (and there are quite a few) that are commonly used. “Speaking the language” will help you make a better-informed decision and lead to the perfect mortgage for that perfect new home.

We put together a list of terms that will help you navigate the homebuying process like a pro.

Topics: Borrow
Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Checking Account?

I'd love to tell you that your checking account is undoubtedly the right fit for you.

Unfortunately, there’s a good chance that it’s not. Big banks tend to charge more fees and provide less perks, prompting you to pay more money for less benefits.

The right checking account will do two things: It will help you save your money and it will make managing your everyday finances as convenient as possible. Do you feel that your checking account accomplishes these two things?

Topics: Bank
How to Protect Yourself From Credit and Debit Card Fraud

These days, you're probably more likely to put a 99-cent pack of gum on your debit card than you are to have an extra dollar on you.

Using a credit or debit card everywhere you go is the new normal, and recent technologies have made the transaction process more safe and secure than ever before. However, using your cards comes along with an inherent risk of fraud. 

In an age of computer hacking and data breaches, the need to keep your bank account information secure is more important than ever. And, even if the tangible card never leaves your possession, the account information can still be compromised.

Topics: Protect
What to Look for in Your First Credit Card

You've landed your first real job. 

Now, with a steady source of income, you’re ready to take the next step in the process of adulting – getting your very first credit card. This may seem like a no-brainer – just filling out an application – because aren’t all credit cards the same?

The answer is no, absolutely not. In all likelihood, you are going to have a long-term relationship with this card and the financial institution issuing it. Shouldn’t you make sure that this card is “the one?” And, if you don’t take the time to do some comparison shopping, you may pay out more of your hard earned money than necessary.

Topics: Bank
Ways (in Every Price Range) to Raise Your Property Value

You don't necessarily need to break the bank to raise your property value.

There are a lot of things you can do to upgrade the value of your home before you make a move, and it's true that even a small investment can make a major difference.

Whether your home could use some minor changes or you’re considering a HELOC to make a big upgrade, there are a lot of different things you can do to make the space more appealing to potential homebuyers. So, if you’re thinking about selling or renting your home, read this list before you start packing up and moving out.

Topics: Invest
Who Are Fannie and Freddie and Why Are They in My Mortgage?

Fannie and Freddie sounds like a brand of chocolates from the 1920s, or perhaps the names of your elderly grandparents you visit twice a year in upstate New York. Alas, neither is the case. So I bet you're wondering- "Who are Fannie and Freddie and why are they in my mortgage?"

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were actually created by Congress with the goal in mind of becoming an affordable and reliable source of mortgage funding for all Americans. The organizations provide funds to the financial institutions that shell out the cash you need to buy the home you want to buy- when you want to buy it. 

Topics: Borrow
What Should You Do With Your Tax Refund?

Ah, that April 15 deadline is approaching and you're going to have to go through with the dreaded and dreary task of doing your taxes.

You've gathered your W2's and your 1099's and posted up on your laptop, or perhaps you handed your documents over to an expert. Either way, some of us are in a better mood than others during tax season, hopeful that we’ll be getting some extra cash lining our pockets rather than owing more money.

But what are you going to do with that extra cash? 

The Good and The Bad of PMI

You’re ready for home ownership. And to get yourself to this point you’ve cut corners (and coupons) everywhere to save for the down payment. Unfortunately, you’re still not quite at the sweet spot – 20 percent of the home’s price.

Don’t worry. You won’t have to live on ramen noodles for another year or two. Most lenders will still give you a mortgage (if you qualify) with one little addition – Private Mortgage Insurance or PMI.

Banks vs. Credit Unions: 5 Things You May Not Know

We're going to start by making a list. Ready?

Write down all the financial products you have, from your checking and savings accounts to your credit card and car loan. Now, next to each one, jot down the name of the financial institution you use for each service. 

How many of those institutions are banks? What about credit unions? Chances are the scale tips more towards banks, and that’s not surprising. Although credit union membership began a strong growth surge after the financial meltdown, the industry continues to suffer from an identity crisis. In a survey by the Credit Union National Association, 30 percent of the 18 to 24-year-old respondents said that they haven’t considered because banking with a credit union because they don’t know much about them. So we think we should tell you. 

Topics: Bank
Life in 1966 - 50 Years of USALLIANCE

USALLIANCE Financial is celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2016.

The world was a different place in 1966- back when you could buy a new car for $2,000 and The Beatles were all the rage.

What was life like in 1966?

  1. Star Trek, the iconic sci-fi TV series premiered on NBC on September 8, 1966. Also premiering in 1966 was Batman, Mission Impossible, That Girl, and The Monkees.

  2. Can you believe the Super Bowl is 50? The Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs played in Super Bowl I- then known as the AFL-NFL Championship Game. The Packers won by a score of 35 to 10.