News Bites

Tips to Prevent ID Theft and Fraud

April 7, 2015

Crafty online criminals roam the Internet with the hope of gaining access to your checking account and personal information. That's simply a reality for 21st-century consumers. Unfortunately, all too many hackers successfully cash in on occasional carelessness. To help thwart their efforts, it's important to know how to protect yourself and your money. Here are four tips to get you started.

Regularly update your passwords

Although financial institutions like the Spirit of Alaska Federal Credit Union have advanced security systems in place to protect customer data, you need to do your part, too. For starters, create strong passwords that consist of a mixture of upper- and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers. Change your passwords on a monthly basis, both on your computers and your mobile apps, and don't share them with anyone. Instead of saving your various passwords on your computer, consider writing them down and storing them in a secure place at home.

Monitor your balances

Keep a close eye on your checking and other accounts. If you spot an odd transaction that you think may be fraudulent, inform the financial institution, card issuer or service provider right away. The sooner you do that, the better your chances are of fixing the situation.

Surf wisely

Whether you're at home or work, always sign out of online financial accounts after you've finished looking at them. Furthermore, protect your home computer by installing antivirus and malware software, and run monthly scans of your system.

Use your best judgment when shopping online. If a website doesn't look legitimate, think twice before supplying your credit card information. Be particularly careful when using Wi-Fi connections in public places. Many public Internet access points are not secured and don't encrypt the traffic they carry. As a result, sensitive information that you transmit, like passwords or debit card numbers, can be easy prey for hackers lying in wait.

The same goes for emails that claim you've won an exorbitantly large cash prize and then ask for your checking account information. These types of messages are scams that should be deleted immediately.

Protect yourself against card skimming

It's equally important to stay vigilant when you're offline. That means keeping your Social Security card in a safe place at home and never carrying more cash and credit cards than you absolutely need. Try to avoid using ATMs in sketchy locations like gas stations, since these are popular among card-skimming criminals who copy your card information to make purchases of their own.

The takeaway

Preventing fraud and identity theft requires a combination of careful maintenance, planning and common sense, which you should rely on whenever surfing the Internet or withdrawing money. A proactive approach goes a long way in ensuring that your financial information doesn't fall into the hands of cybercriminals.

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Spirit of Alaska FCU presents a Day at the Ice Park

March 13, 2015

Spring is right around the corner for Interior Alaska, but there is still time to catch some of the winter fun activities in Fairbanks!

Spirit of Alaska Federal Credit Union is once again sponsoring a Day at the Ice Park, Saturday, March 21st, 2015. The ice sculpting championships have now been completed and the park is full of single block and multi-block award winners. Now is definitely the best time to enjoy these fantastic art creations. Kids will enjoy an expanded slide area and ice spinners in the Kid's Park.

While at the park, stop by the Money Island sculptures and get your picture taken with characters from the youth financial education website. Money Island is an online resource used within the SASSY (Spirit of Alaska Society of Smart Youth) program.

Spirit of Alaska FCU members are encouraged to pick up a coupon for $5.00 off normal admission prices, good for the 21st only. Coupons can be picked up at any Spirit of Alaska FCU branch.

Prestige members (55+) are invited to enjoy the park from 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm and receive free entry. Prestige members must R.S.V.P. and can call (907) 459-5907 to leave a message.

Spirit of Alaska Federal Credit Union is proud to once again be a large sponsor of the Ice Park and the World Ice Art Championships. Come out and join us as we enjoy the last days of winter!

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How Credit Unions Beat Banks for Banking

March 6, 2015

A frustrated customer's irritation with a proposed monthly account fee several years ago spurred a nationwide movement to join credit unions and ditch banks. Over the next 12 months, 2.2 million people made the move.

By last year, these member-controlled cooperatives counted more than 100 million customers, an almost 9% gain in just five years. If you still aren't sold on joining a credit union, here are three advantages over banks worth considering.

1. Lower fees

Credit unions are not-for-profit organizations. Operational surpluses go back to members, rather than investors, in the form of fewer or reduced fees and better rates. Fees that are imposed generally cost less compared with similar charges at banks.

In a national study, 70% of credit unions offered a truly fee-free checking account, whereas banks charged an average of $117 a year if customers failed to maintain a minimum balance or didn't use direct-deposit services.

2. Improved checking costs and benefits

Rather than paying to have a checking account at a big bank, you could have one at a financial institution like Spirit of Alaska Federal Credit Union that pays you with interest of as much as 1.25% on balances up to $10,000. Some offer rewards on accounts that don't require a minimum balance or a monthly service fee, provided customers make a certain number of debit-card transactions a month and other ordinary banking activities.

3. Better rates

Although rates vary based on credit score and location, credit unions are generally a better bet for anyone buying a car with financing. According to the latest data from the National Credit Union Administration, a federal regulatory agency, lenders it oversees offer auto loans with interest rates that average nearly half those charged by banks. A better rate can mean a difference of thousands of dollars in interest over the life of a loan.

In fact, credit unions beat banks on rates connected to most forms of lending, including home loans and credit cards. When it comes to savings, banks trail credit unions there too, including on term certificates and regular accounts.

In the final analysis, credit unions offer significant savings compared with banks for the same services. With their member focus, many will work more readily with clients who've had their share of financial ups and downs. If you haven't made the switch yet, now might be a good time to consider doing so.

Cait Klein, NerdWallet

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Mobile Banking is on the way!

May 25, 2014

We've all been there, needing to check your account balance, but nowhere near the nearest branch or ATM. Maybe you forgot to pay a bill and are out of town, or maybe you're at home, relaxing, and just don't want to leave the comforts of your surroundings. As technology becomes more and more an integral part of life, the convenience of accessing your finances when and where you need has become the norm rather than the exception. Spirit of Alaska Federal Credit Union understands this and has worked hard to find the right solution.

Beginning in July, SoAFCU members will experience a new level of service for their mobile devices! The new mobile banking solution is a fast, easy and secure way to stay on top of your finances anywhere. Check your balance, find ATMs, pay bills, transfer funds and more. You can even make person to person payments using Bill Pay's Popmoney!

Powered by FISERV's Mobiliti, the Spirit of Alaska FCU mobile banking solution is easy to access:

  • Apps – for your Apple or Android phones or tablets, download from our website or the app stores.
  • Mobile Web – by typing spiritofak.com into your mobile browser.
  • Text – you text us and we will text you back. Alert texting also available.

Gone are the days of traditional 9-to-5 banking. Now, you are in control, no matter the time of day, no matter your location.

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1st Time Car Buyer Program

May 25, 2014

Let's face it, buying a car can be an exciting, yet stressful life event, especially if it's your first vehicle. How much can you safely afford to spend and how much will it cost to maintain the vehicle once you have the keys? If financing, have you taken a look at your credit and the credit of your co-signor? Satisfying these questions before you start shopping around can help make the vehicle buying process much easier. Once you're ready to buy, Spirit of Alaska Federal Credit Union can help.

SofAFCU has recently unveiled a 1st Time Car Buyer program designed to help young members with their car ownership dreams. Member applicants can be as young as 16 to qualify*, a rarity in the financial loan industry! Proof of employment is required, but can be as little as 3 months of verification**. Unlike other institutions, there is no age limit on financed vehicles but autos must have less than 100,000 miles.

Rules, terms and conditions apply and not every member may qualify. The 1st Time Car Buyer program is offered to SoAFCU members age 16-24. If owning a vehicle is right for you, please contact Spirit of Alaska Federal Credit Union's Consumer Loan Department at (907) 459-5970 or stop by any branch for more information.

*Minors must have parent/guardian as co-signor in primary position.

**Paystub verification required and require additional letter from employer.

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UAF Wood Center Branch Closure

May 25, 2014

Spirit of Alaska FCU has had a long and storied history with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, dating back to the credit union's founding in 1960 the "Greater Fairbanks Teachers Credit Union." Over the decades, the credit union has changed names and locations, continuing to grow within the Fairbanks area, all the while providing service to thousands of members and to the community.

Earlier this year, the decision was made to permanently close the UAF Wood Center branch location. The closure was anticipated due to the close proximity already of the Geist Road branch to the university and duplication of services between Geist and the Wood Center branches. The closure is expected to reduce operational costs without disrupting services in the west Fairbanks area.

Spirit of Alaska Federal Credit Union remains the largest credit union in Interior Alaska with branches located at 1417 Gillam Way, 4001 Geist Road, 495 Harold Bentley Drive and the Peger Road/Davis Road ATM/Kiosk location. ATM service is offered at all branch locations and ATMs will remain of the UAF campus at the Wood Center and the Hess Dorm Complex.

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SASSY Online!

May 25, 2014

School is out for summer and kids are enjoying fun in the sun with friends and family. Though formal education is on hiatus, your child can take full advantage of our online financial education program, Spirit of Alaska Society of Smart Youth, or SASSY!

Spirit of Alaska is dedicated to helping youth learn more about money and how they can be more responsible with spending, saving, investing and sharing. Last fall, SASSY was launched in that effort and already youth members are earning rewards as they progress through the online resources available on the SASSY website.

Youth members age Kindergarten through 3rd grade are referred to as "Discoverers" and are offered a chance to learn and earn by exploring the Kirby Kangaroo Club and 5 Spot programs.

  • Kirby Kangaroo Club – Discoverers can earn awards for completing coloring pages and reading about Kirby's adventures, all designed to teach basics of spending, saving and sharing. Some of the prizes awarded for completing these levels include coloring books, crayons and a rainbow Slinky!
  • 5 Spot – The mission here is to play video games or puzzles and read stories. The more activities accomplished, the more Discoverers earn club house bucks. Spirit of Alaska FCU rewards these achievements by giving out items like a SASSY drawstring backpack.

The next age group in the SASSY program is known as the "Explorers" and is geared to kids 4th through 7th grade. Again, SASSY's online resources continue to provide fun financial education.

  • Money Island – Explorers must save Stone Broke, a kid who never learned how to manage money. There are intermediate and advanced levels of the game and Explorers must complete the game to earn prizes from the SASSY program. Sample prizes include a journal and pen set and an overnight duffle bag.
  • AJ's – This interactive resource continues the progression of learning from 5 Spot. Explorers learn though articles and stories geared more the middle school student mindset.

The last age group, 8th grade through 12th, is known as the "Soarers," as they are preparing to "launch" into the adult world.

  • Money Mission – Soarers create avatars of themselves and are tasked with a mission to balance money with real-world life experiences. They can earn money by "working" and must make spending decisions based on needs and financial resources.
  • C-Note – Explorers can read articles and blogs and even participate in peer panel discussions regarding financial topics. SASSY Achievement prizes include flashing pens, school supplies, a jump drive wrist bracelet and even Spirit of Alaska FCU gift cards.

Youth account members are automatically enrolled in the SASSY program and there is absolutely no cost associated with the online resources. Any child can participate in SASSY, but they must have a youth account at Spirit of Alaska Federal Credit Union to earn achievement prizes.

The days of summer are long and care-free, but that doesn't mean they can't be productive as well. To find out more information regarding SASSY and the online resources, simply log on to www.spiritofak.com and click on the SASSY tab, or call Spirit of Alaska Federal Credit Union at (907) 459-5900 or (800) 478-1949.

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