It’s no secret that some financial terms are a little mysterious, even obtuse. In honor of National Thesaurus Day on January 18 th we want to shed light on some important but evasive financial terms that can have a huge impact on your financial health.
1. Debt Snowball
A debt snowball sounds foreboding, especially this time of year. But, instead of being the cold, steep fall into debt you might imagine, a debt snowball is a strategy for paying off your debt quickly. First, you sort your debts from those with the smallest to largest balance, then you tackle the smallest balance first, while paying minimums on the larger debts.
It’s true that you’d pay less money if you tackled the larger debts, or the debts with the highest interest rates first. It might even be smarter to consolidate your debt in some situations. But, the debt snowball is designed to make debt feel more manageable. The psychological boost you feel when you have a debt paid off (even a small one) is huge, and it can keep you on track when paying off the rest of your debt.
For those who struggle with financial motivation or who feel overwhelmed by their debt, the debt snowball is a helpful strategy.
2. RAM Scraping Attack
This is not something a hammerhead shark does to its prey, but it is just as dangerous. A RAM scraping attack is a strategy criminals use to compromise a store’s debit or credit machine.
RAM stands for random access memory. The point-of-sale machine uses RAM to store the details of your debit or credit card while it is processing your payment, then it deletes it. But, while the transaction is taking place, it is possible for criminals to “scrape” that information out of the RAM storage.
PIN numbers and card chips are security features designed to protect your card from falling victim to a RAM scraping attack. You can protect yourself from this type of attack by covering your PIN when entering it into a point-of-sale machine. On their end, stores should also take measures to protect against these kinds of attacks.
This term was coined in the 2008-2009 recession when many more men lost their jobs than women because male-dominated industries like manufacturing and construction were hit the hardest.
Financial commentators have continued to debate about whether the real “losers” or “winners” in the 2008 economic downturn and eventual economic “upswing” were men or women. For many heterosexual couples, it meant that the female partner became the major breadwinner, often for the first time. The term Mancession brings up an interesting question for families today: are men’s jobs less stable than women’s and what impact does this have, if any, on our family dynamics?
4. Expected Family Contribution
This term is vital to know when you are planning your children’s post-secondary education. Many parents don’t realize that they are expected to give their children a certain amount of money for their education, and that this money is taken into consideration when their child is applying to some grants and scholarships. Your expected family contribution will depend on your income and is an important factor when planning for your child’s tuition costs.
Think you can stump us? Share a weird or hard-to-understand financial term below and we’ll do our best to define it!
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If you haven’t locked into a fixed rate on your mortgage and other loan products, then now might be the time!
On December 12 th , the Federal Reserve raised the federal funds rate, which moves the Prime Rate. The Federal Reserve’s actions resulted in a prime rate increase of 0.25%, moving the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Prime Rate from 4.25% to 4.50%. It’s a familiar story —this was the third time the Federal Reserve has raised the Prime Rate in 2017, the New York Times reports.
With a rate that’s been raised three times in the past year, surely the hikes are bound to slow down, or stop, right? Not necessarily. The New York Times suggests the Federal Reserve will raise the interest rate at least three more times in 2018. So, if you don’t have a fixed or blended rate on your mortgage or other loan products, it might be best to make the change from variable rates now, while you can still take advantage of the 4.50% rate.
Why does the Prime Rate Change?
Remember when you were a kid and your parents kept telling you to slow down, or stop running in the house? Well, like a parent, the Federal Reserve uses the Prime Rate to support the economy. It can’t control the economy (no more than we can control our kids). But with small suggestions and changes, the Federal Reserve hopes to direct things in a safer direction.
The Federal Reserve prefers slower economic growth because it’s trying to protect the economy over the long-term. Low rates cause people to borrow more than they can afford. If the economy suddenly takes a downward turn many Americans may stumble or fall and find themselves in over their heads.
Feeling the Squeeze? Think of it as a Hug
Fortunately, the U.S. economy is doing so well that the Federal Reserve feels it needs to slow it down with rate hikes. This is good news, because it means our economic outlook is strong and the economy is expected to continue to do well throughout 2018. On the other hand, for those of us with certain variable rate loans and credit lines, it means we’ll all be paying more in interest.
What is the Difference Between the WSJ Prime Rate and the US Federal Funds Rate?
The Wall Street Journal Prime Rate is “the base rate on corporate loans posted by at least 70% of the 10 largest U.S. banks.” Although they often move together, this rate is not the same as the federal funds rate set by the Federal Reserve, which is the interest rate that financial institutions use to lend reserve balances (the amount held at the Federal Reserve to ensure a financial institutions’ reserve requirements are met).
Most financial institutions and lenders, including BECU, use the WSJ Prime Rate to set their interest rates. For this reason, a change in the WSJ Prime Rate will impact every facet of the economy, including the products offered at BECU.
Carrying a Balance on Your Credit Card and Loans Just Got a Little More Expensive
Those products that have interest rates based on the WSJ Prime Rate will see a rise. For example, the BECU VISA® credit card has a variable annual percentage rate, or APR, tied to the WSJ Prime Rate.
A variable rate is an interest rate that changes. Most variable rates are tied to the Prime Rate, with an added margin on top. The margin isn’t changing in this case, just the Prime Rate itself. This means your BECU VISA® interest rate will go up, whether you’ve got a personal or a business card. The same goes for your BECU business line of credit and home equity line of credit (see the end of this article for a list of other BECU products impacted by WSJ Prime Rate).
Your Variable Rate Mortgage Just Got a Little More Expensive Too
Good news for our members with a BECU home loan with a fixed rate; nothing is changing for you. If you have an adjustable /variable rate mortgage (ARM) , then your rate may be changing, depending on your financial institution, term and how long you’ve had the mortgage.
It’s important to note that just because you have an adjustable rate mortgage doesn’t necessarily mean that a change in the WSJ Prime Rate will result in an increase in your ARM.
BECU’s ARMs are tied to the 1-year London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) not the WSJ Prime Rate. LIBOR is a benchmark rate used by some of the world’s leading financial institutions for short-term loans. It’s important to check with your financial institution to see what index your adjustable rate mortgage is tied to and ask whether your ARM has increased.
If it has, don’t fret. Interest rates are still historically low. NerdWallet is quick to point out that over the last 44 years mortgages have averaged 8%, but most are currently around 4% or 5%. So, although the Federal Reserve has been raising the Prime Rate, mortgage rates are still at unusual lows.
If you’re in the market for a new mortgage, you’re still going to benefit from lower-than average rates, even if you don’t buy your next house before the Federal Reserve’s next Prime Rate increase.
Ways to Deal with Rising Interest Rates
Consumer Reports has some great advice in light of the Prime Rate change, including paying as much of your debt as possible, especially credit card debt. The reasoning is simple: if you’re worried about how much interest you’ll accrue, paying down the principle is a sure-fire way to alleviate these concerns (and the amount of interest you’ll pay overall).
Of course, as we’ve mentioned you can also consider choosing a fixed rate BECU product because it’s very likely the Federal Reserve has more Prime Rate hikes planned. The move doesn’t make sense for everybody, though. So much depends on your personal circumstances, but moving to a fixed rate loan is certainly something to discuss with your BECU Financial Health Specialist.
The Silver Lining
Increased rates mean higher revenue for financial institutions. Being not-for-profit, BECU is now tasked with looking for ways to return even more money to members, whether it be increased rates on deposit accounts, additional services, or the reduction/elimination of fees.
Higher interest rates also mean that fewer people will be buying big ticket items like homes, which usually drives down prices in the real estate market, providing a nice opportunity for savvy buyers.
You can also look forward to an overall healthier economy, which should translate to more job opportunities and higher wages.
What BECU Loan Products are Increasing and When?
The following BECU loan products have an APR based upon the Wall Street Journal Prime Rate and will increase on the specified dates (remember, BECU adjustable rate mortgages are tied to the 1-year LIBOR and will fluctuate against that index):
Rate change was effective on December 18, 2017
Business Line of Credit (Secured and Unsecured)
Rate change was effective on January 1, 2018
Home Equity Line of Credit
Rate change will be effective on February 1, 2018
Rate change will be effective on July 1, 2018
Existing Student Loans
What factors do you look at when considering a mortgage or loan product? How will the Prime Rate change impact your budget?
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Most of us make New Year's resolutions. Usually, we resolve to work out more and eat less, or spend more time with our family and less time at the office. However, financial New Year’s resolutions are some of the most common, most important, and most attainable.
Here’s Why Financial Resolutions Work
Sticking to your New Year’s resolutions is usually a challenge, but financial resolutions are in many ways easier to keep than other goals like losing weight or exercising more. Why? Your finances are measurable. All the numbers are there for you, you just have to take the time to find and understand them.
Before you even set a financial goal, you should take an hour or two to make a monthly budget. Find out exactly how much money you are spending and where that spending is going. Then, look for ways you can make small changes to your spending. You’ll probably be surprised by just how big of a difference a small change can make to your budget.
16 Popular and Simple Financial Resolutions
Want to improve your finances in the New Year, but not sure where to start? Here are some popular (and simple) financial New Year’s resolutions to try:
Ways to Save
Walk or cycle whenever you can instead of driving – doing this a few times a week will help you reduce the amount you spend on gas.
Carpool to work – you and your co-worker will both save when you take turns driving.
Make coffee at home everyday and bring a travel mug to work instead of buying a coffee on your way to work.
When you use cash put all your change in a savings jar at the end of each day.
Spend less at the bar by setting a drink limit or inviting friends back home. Drinks at bars are as overpriced as coffee!
Spend less on groceries by making a list (and sticking to it) before you go to the store.
Go one month without eating out. Make food at home and meal prep instead (good for your wallet and your waistline).
Only use refillable water. Buying plastic water bottles costs more and can add up over the year (plus it’s horrible for the environment)!
Max out your retirement contributions for the year before you go on your next vacation.
Spread out your holiday savings by buying each person on your list one gift each month of the year. When the holidays come you’ll be super organized, and most of your gifts will be paid for already, which will reduce the financial stress that plague so many of us over the holidays.
De-clutter your home once a year and host a big garage sale (or sell your items online). Use the money you earn towards your savings.
Open a Certificate of Deposit (CD) with the Add-To Option through BECU . This option lets you make additional contributions to your CD while maintaining your guaranteed fixed interest rate. With the Add-To-Option you can open a CD with as little as $100. Combine this low opening requirement with BECU’s strong CD interest rates* and you’ve got a simple way to maximize your savings.
Ways to Grow Healthy Financial Habits
Spend an hour per month on your budget.
Take a course on personal finances.
Read a book about financial health.
Listen to a monthly financial podcast.
5 Tips to Help You Achieve Your Financial Resolutions
Like some of these ideas? Here are some ways you can achieve your financial New Year’s resolutions:
Be specific and measurable
Don't say “I am going to save more.” Instead, say “I’m going to save an extra $100 a month by making coffee at home instead of going to Starbucks.” Keep tracking your progress at regular intervals throughout the year.
Hold yourself accountable
Measuring your progress only works if you use that information to improve. Hold yourself accountable and acknowledge your great work when you’re successful.
Tell others about your goal
We often lose sight of our goals, but by holding one another accountable we can stay focused and motivated.
Schedule your goals
Set short-term targets. For example, if you want to save $1200 more per year you should save $300 every three months. Also, schedule a regular time to achieve your goals. For financial goals that might mean an hour per week dedicated to budgeting, reading about personal finance, or working overtime.
It's not all or nothing
One of the biggest killers of New Year's resolutions is the mindset that if you slip up once you have failed. Life isn't black and white! If you make a mistake or fall short of your target then get up, dust yourself off and try again.
Do you make resolutions? How do you stick to them?
*Federally Insured by the NCUA
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If only there was one simple guide to financial health. Instead, there are almost too many to count! No single book has all the answers for everyone, but many offer solid advice that is applicable to most of us.
Want to learn more about finances, but feeling overwhelmed when it comes to choosing a title? With so many books out there it can be hard to narrow your focus. Whether you’re looking for a gift for a friend or yourself, when it comes to your financial health here are our top book recommendations:
Your Money or Your Life
by Vicki Robin
Author Vicki Robin takes a unique approach to financial health, blending it with overall well-being. Her core argument is that living frugally and finding the right work-life balance is more important than how much you make.
Robin brings up a paradox many of us have experienced - that it can be expensive to make a lot of money. Spending all day at the office can damage your relationships, your health and your bank account as you experience the consequences of too little time and too much stress.
The Wealthy Barber
by David Chilton
This book blends storytelling with financial advice, offering practical tips for the future in the form of a story. A young man whose dreams of becoming a lawyer are derailed visits the richest man in town for advice which is duly delivered to both the protagonist and the reader.
The book champions saving 10 percent of your money and living frugally among other tips. If you like it be sure to grab the sequel The Wealthy Barber Returns.
Stop Overthinking Your Money
by Preet Banerjee
Banerjee encourages readers to let go of the financial jargon that paralyzes so many of us from doing anything at all about our financial situation. Instead, he argues that at most, you only need to know 20 percent of the financial information out there. He helps readers focus on the information they need to know with a philosophy that is simple: investing is great, but first you need to pay off your debt, spend less, always read the fine print, and build up emergency savings.
A Wealth of Common Sense: Why Simplicity Trumps Complexity in Any Investment Plan
by Ben Carlson
Carlson confronts the short-term investing world by arguing that you should ignore short-term metrics and think long-term when you make an investment. With his simplicity-based framework, Carlson’s book helps readers view the markets, read their portfolio, and find simple ways to make better investment strategies that are easy to understand and not overly time-consuming.
I Will Teach You To Be Rich
by Ramit Sethi
The direct title reflects Sethi’s fun and friendly tone. Sethi sets out a clear 6-week plan for you to follow and is thoroughly comprehensive, making it a great book for anyone new to the world of finance.
Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School? 99 Personal Money Management Principles to Live By
by Cary Siegel
Siegel originally wrote this book for his children but the accessible style and comprehensive range of advice is perfect for anyone from the young, to the young at heart.
The Truth About Money
by Ric Edelman
Edelman’s book not only provides information but also a clear roadmap for the reader to follow. Best of all he starts with a simple quiz so if you have been binge-reading personal finance books you can test your knowledge and then skip straight to the parts of the book that are most relevant for you.
Women and Money
by Suze Orman
Orman wrote this book to help empower women financially, helping them to negotiate the
world of personal finance (which is often male-centric). Orman also has a book aimed specifically at young people and the challenges they face entitled The Money Book for the Young which is worth a read if you have kids.
Rich Dad, Poor Dad
by Robert Kiyosaki
There are claims that this is the best-selling personal finance book ever, so it’s possible that you’ve already read (or heard of) Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Author Robert Kiyosaki follows the divergent financial paths of his father and his mentor. He chronicles each of their own philosophies, successes and failures, and analyzes how they have impacted his own approach to personal finance which he shares with the reader.
Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You're Not): A Parent's Guide For Kids
by Beth Kobliner
There is no doubt that kids these days don't get enough information about personal finances in school. This book seeks to rectify that issue by helping parents teach their kids about the importance of personal finance and how to live financially responsible lives.
Can you recommend a book that isn't on our list? We’d love to know your financial favorites.
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The holidays are about spending time with friends and family and for most of us, spending money. If you are like most Americans then holiday joy comes with a price tag. Food, wine, and sweets will stretch your budget and your waistline, and that’s before you even consider the cost of gift giving! Last year, total American holiday sales were estimated at $1 trillion and Investopedia reported the average American spent $929 on gifts for friends and loved ones.
Want to prevent your holiday cheer from turning into a financial hangover? Here are ten smart tips to help you pay off your holiday debt quickly:
1. Earn Extra Income
Today the “gig economy” is booming. If you have skills that are applicable online then try advertising on websites like Upwork or Fiverr. Place an ad in your local paper or online on Craigslist. If you have a car then register to drive for Uber or Lift (the holidays are especially busy). Ask your employer for more overtime hours, or find a part-time retail job (many hire temporary holiday staff). Earning extra income over the holidays is the best way to cover your holiday expenses.
2. Remember - Not All Debt is Equal
Many stores offer special store credit cards during the holiday season with big discounts attached to them. These can be a great deal - as long as you remember to pay them off before you’re charged interest! Although these cards may offer savings of 10 to 20%, they often carry interest rates that are even higher. Worse, because they come with low credit limits maxing out a card can actually hurt your credit score.
Some stores offer ‘deferred-interest’ deals on big-ticket items, which means you do not pay any interest on your purchase for the first month (or first few months). This sounds like a good deal, but once the interest period kicks in prepare to pay for all the interest accumulated over the past few months. Remember it is “deferred-interest” not “no-interest.” If you go this route try to pay the full loan off before the interest period begins.
Looking for a new credit card with great rewards? BECU’s Visa® Card has one of the lowest interest rates in the country and offers a unique reprice program that may lower your rate when your credit score improves!
3. Make Multiple Monthly Payments
Making more than one credit card payment per month can keep you well below your credit limit and can also make budgeting easier. Just be sure to keep track of your spending and card payments.
4. Use Your Cash-Back Rewards
If you have a rewards credit card then consider cashing in your points to help you cover the cost of your holiday expenses. Whether you’ve got the BECU Cash Back Visa® (which offers 1.5% unlimited cash back with no annual fees and a low APR), collect points to go towards grocery store purchases, or collect points to cover gas – using your points to reduce your monthly costs in other areas of your budget can free up some money to help you cover holiday expenses.
5. Motivated by Emotion? Consider Paying Smaller Debts First
If you do go into debt over the holidays then it’s important to have a strategy to pay that debt off quickly. According to a study reported by Time, you should pay off your smaller debts first. This may seem counterintuitive but the scientists found that paying off smaller debts and working up to bigger debts created a ‘snowball effect’. Each time you pay off a smaller debt you feel like you’ve accomplished something, which motivates you to tackle the next debt and so on.
Be warned, however, this psychological trick might get you motivated but if could cost you more in interest payments. “This isn’t really logical. It makes more sense, mathematically, to target your debts in descending APR order. But people aren’t logical,” the article notes.
6. Motivated by Logic? Pay Your Highest Debts First
If you’re logical and don’t need the positive reinforcement to motivate you to eliminate your debt quickly then you probably don’t need the snowball effect mentioned above to help you pay off your debt. Instead, pay off the largest debts with the highest interest rates first.
7. Don't Take Out a Payday Loan!
Even the most frugal savers might be tempted to take out a payday loan during the holidays. Do not do it! Payday loan companies charge extortive interest and fees that make credit card interest rates look like peanuts. Ask for an advance or holiday bonus from work, file your taxes early, put it on your credit card, have a garage sale, reduce your gift budget - anything other than a payday loan!
8. Don't Borrow or Lend to Family
The holidays are about family and friends, but nothing drives a wedge between friends and family faster than debt. If you feel you have to loan someone you love money and you can afford it then consider gifting it instead.
9. Don't Take Money From Your Future
Avoid the temptation of using your emergency fund, your retirement savings, or borrowing against your home to cover your holiday expenses. It is better to be frugal, work a little harder, and create a smart debt management plan than to start taking money away from your future.
10. Don’t Jump into Debt Consolidation
If things get too tough then debt consolidation is an option, but it should be a last resort. Debt consolidation uses a loan to pay off all your debts, and then allows you to pay back that loan with a lower interest rate. Although it is a great tool of last resort, it can hurt your credit score. We recommend chatting with a BECU Financial Health Check Specialist first to see if debt consolidation is good choice for you.
Plan for Next Year
Of course, now is too late to start saving for the holidays, but if you really felt the crunch this year then why not create a strategy for the 2018 holiday season? Some people purchase gift cards for family friends throughout the year, set aside their tax return, or have a holiday savings fund that they contribute to each month to lessen the financial stress experienced in December and January.
Another strategy is to talk to your family and friends and find a way to reduce the financial stress associated with the holidays. Many families agree to do a “secret Santa” or other gift exchange that puts limits on the gift giving. Be open about your holiday stress – others may be feeling the financial crunch too and you may find that agreeing to get together without the presents is the best gift you can give each other!
What’s your financial approach to the holidays? Do you have any tips and tricks for reducing or paying off holiday debt?
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@Arcstyles & @briannastuart- Thanks for joining the MIX and lending your voice to this idea, it's a popular one! As John shared, we really are continuing to advocate for this top idea with our internal partners- it's a small but mighty feature enhancement and your comments help support the member demand. Cheers, KristinA
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@briannastuart- Thanks for sharing your voice here! We do have a Co-Op ATM in Kingston which takes deposits- it's located at:
8196 NE State Highway 104
Kingston, WA 98346
In the meantime, be assured we've added Kingston to the ATM location list for evaluation. Cheers, KristinA
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@ODONNELLA- Thanks for joining the MIX and sharing your comments here. Have you tried using "External Transfers" in your online banking? Once you establish good-standing transfer history, you're able to make next-day transfers that way between your accounts at BECU and your other financial institution. Cheers, KristinA
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@Robertal01- Thanks for joining the MIX and sharing your feedback with us. Because of the way our systems talk to each other, it can cause "lag" time between the time your payment is deducted and when it's applied, but I want to assure you that your payments are effective dated for the day you actually make them, so no extra interest is being paid.
I'm not sure the "lower area" you're clicking into, but if you click directly into your home loan account within your online banking, it *should* bring you to a page with all of your home loan details, probably more than you even wanted to know! If we can help further though, please don't hesitate to call us- 800.233.2328. Cheers, KristinA
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@paulrandpierce- Thanks for being a BECU fan, and thanks for joining the MIX! We're so glad you were able to refi with us and lower your rate!
We do promote our auto refi program on our website and in our branches, but your feedback is helpful in letting us know we could certainly expand our promotional efforts! I'll be sharing your feedback directly with our product and marketing owners. Thanks for sharing your experience, cheers, KristinA
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Biometrics. Sounds like some cool sci-fi concept, right? Sure, biometrics have had a long history in science fiction, from iris and fingerprint scanners to facial recognition. Not everything has made the leap off the pages of science fiction into real life, but many concepts have. The following types of biometrics are here, right now and represent the future of security and information protection.
Fingerprint login was once seen as something in the distant future, but by now it is routine for many of us. iPhone and some Android users are already well acquainted with the process and it has also been available from BECU for some time now as well as many other major financial institutions around the world.
Fingerprint login is safe, secure, and proven. Granted, it can be inconvenient in the middle of winter when you’re wearing gloves! Plus, fingerprint scanners are ultra-sensitive to moisture, dust, dirt, and electrostatic discharge, which can all affect their performance from time to time. Still, despite these small inconveniences we love the advantages of this type of biometric authentication.
The subject of science fiction for decades, facial scanning has been available on many smartphones for a few years now. The iPhone X, however, is “the biggest field test yet” of this technology, at least according to Wired. "With the iPhone X, your iPhone is locked until you look at it and it recognizes you. Nothing has ever been more simple, natural, and effortless," Apple executive Phil Schiller told Wired when the phone was launched. "This is the future of how we'll unlock our smartphones and protect our sensitive information," he says.
In the past facial recognition has been laughably easy to beat with techniques as simple as holding up a photo of the rightful owner. Apple’s technology, however, uses a program called TrueDepth which projects a grid of 30,000 points onto your face, effectively making this biometric difficult to fool.
You may already have some experience with facial scanning, or you may be wary of jumping headfirst (literally) into a new security technology, but regardless it seems like facial scanning is at the tipping point of becoming commonplace. Many Android phones and PCs running Windows 10 support facial recognition and although some iPhone X users have complained that the phone unlocks unintentionally at inopportune times, or does not always recognize their face, the technology has been mostly well received.
You’ll even find facial recognition in the financial services industry. Our BECU app now supports facial identification, as do many financial institutions. The retail industry has accepted facial identification too. iPhone X users can pay with FaceID, and The Economist reports that users in China can access ATMs, make payment on their phones, or even use Alibaba’s (China’s answer to Amazon) ‘smile to pay’ service in stores.
The European bank TSB has already introduced iris scanning for people who own a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+, which allows users to access their banking app simply by looking into their phone’s camera. In theory iris recognition may be more secure than fingerprint scanning. Your iris has over 260 unique points compared to the 40 unique points on your fingers. Still, eye scanning is a new technology and the S8’s iris scanner was recently fooled by German hackers using - you guessed it - a photo of someone's eyes and a pair of contact lenses.
If facial recognition has arrived then surely voice recognition is not too far behind. We already talk to our smartphones and smart speakers daily to perform searches and other functions. Once again Apple is leading the way here —in 2016 they filed a patent entitled “Speech Recognition Wake-Up of a Handheld Portable Device.”
Here, in the financial industry HSBC set up voice recognition in 2016, but a recent BBC test of the service revealed that it was remarkably easy to hack when the non-identical twin brother of one reporter could access his brother’s account.
Another potential issue with voice recognition is that in the age of smartphones, smartwatches, laptops, tablets, and more, it has never been easier to record someone else's voice. However, just like we were once able to fool facial recognition software with something as simple as a photo, voice recognition could still make the technological leap necessary to become a viable financial security tool in the future.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Richard Parris, chief executive of the software firm Intercede argued that any login should have “three distinct elements – possession (something you have, such as a smartphone), knowledge (something you know, such as a PIN) and inherence (something you are, like an iris scan).”
In this scenario, biometrics would be more secure when combined with other authentication processes, like:
Apple seems to be leading the way in North America in facial recognition, but Google is making big leaps in terms of privacy. Google authenticator provides a simple two-step process to log into your sensitive digital accounts. You still need your name and password, but with Google authenticator you also have to enter a one-time code sent from Google to your authenticated device via the authentication app. This means that simply knowing someone's password and username is no longer enough to access their information. Eventually every login could require authentication through the Google authenticator app.
One time SMS code
A one-time SMS code is another option for authenticating a login attempt. It is like Google authenticator but instead of generating a one-time code through an app, you receive a code through a text message. Entering this code in addition to a password is a simple, effective, and tested two-step verification method.
FOB/USB options have been available for a long time. They work like any FOB key. You simply use the FOB or USB to gain access to sensitive information on your phone or computer. This relieves you of the burden of having to remember your password (but means that you will have to remember your FOB/USB). Still, when combined with other authentication methods a FOB/USB can be a very safe and convenient method of protecting your information.
Do you regularly use biometrics and multi-level authentication? How do you see biometrics being used in the future?
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What is Shared Branching?
It’s cool! Shared Branching is a group of credit unions that agrees to handle regular teller transactions for members of other participating credit unions (partner credit unions). You can complete regular teller transactions at these locations just as if you were visiting a BECU teller location.
In fact, the Co-Op network continues to grow and is now the number two ATM network in the entire country, just behind Bank of America. You can read more about that awesomeness here.
Between Shared Branching and the Co-Op ATM network, you have access to your BECU relationship (aka, your money and accounts) wherever life takes you.
What Transactions Can You Complete?
Deposits (US Funds only)
Loan payments (Excluding Visa and Mortgage payments)
*Withdrawals over $500 are at the discretion of the partner credit union. Cash and check withdrawals through Shared Branching are limited to two transactions in a 48 hour period, regardless of amount.
How Do You Find a Location?
Use the locations search in the BECU Mobile App, or go to www.becu.org/locations then filter your results to select Partner Credit Unions
What Do You Bring With You?
Your Credit Union name (BECU, of course)
Full account number
Valid and acceptable ID
Address and/or last four of SSN
Date of Birth
What’s Good to Know Before You Go?
Services offered can vary between shared branches
Call your selected branch to confirm services before making the trip
You can access the CO-OP Shared Branch Live Help at 888-837-6500 to have questions answered or find locations. Check out http://www.co-opsharedbranch.org/ for more details on Live Help.
Occasionally, there are fees charged by the partner credit union, ranging from $5 to $25 for things like cashier’s checks and photocopies
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@kpol - We're excited to share a member benefit that now offers you a discount on Seattle Symphony concerts. Thank you for your idea, it was helpful in guiding our efforts as we work to expand the deals & discounts we offer. You can read more about the details and how to take advantage of the discount here. Cheers, KristinA
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Here’s an age-old question for you —do you and your partner combine or separate your finances? Some couples (and experts) feel strongly that finances should be combined, while others feel just as strongly that finances should be kept separate. If you ask around, you’ll likely find people you know who take one approach or the other.
A recent TD Bank Survey found that 76 percent of couples said they shared at least one bank account, which means that just under a quarter of the couples surveyed keep their finances completely separate. The survey also found that Millennials were less likely to share —only 68 percent of Millennial couples have at least one shared bank account.
There’s no right or wrong way to manage your household finances – different strategies work for different people. However, there are some pros and cons to each approach. If you’re in a new relationship and are wondering what to do, here’s some things to consider:
Combining Your Finances
As a couple, there are a lot of reasons to combine your finances, and one of the biggest is that it’s simpler, especially if you have children. There’s no question about who pays for regular or unexpected monthly expenses, no discussions about fairness (especially when one partner makes more money). But perhaps most importantly, both partners have access to all the household’s funds, and on paper both are equally responsible for household expenses.
While most couples don’t plan for their relationship to end, separate accounts are beneficial in situations where a couple is going through a divorce. On the other hand, with separate accounts if one partner passes away then the surviving partner may not have access to funds when needed. Although the rules vary by state, certified financial planner Jennifer Black told The Globe and Mail that “the banks are pretty strict…I have seen situations where people cannot get access to the money at all. Usually, the bank is waiting to see a probated will."
If one partner works outside the home and the other partner is responsible for running the household, then Black suggests that a joint account is even more important to have in a time of crisis. Should an illness, death, or other unforeseeable event occur then arguably it’s safer to have combined finances and joint accounts.
Separating Your Finances
When it comes to separating your finances, there are varying degrees of separation. Some couples have a joint account as well as their own separate accounts, while others keep everything separate and each manages different parts of the household budget.
Couples who have developed a relationship later in life, or who come into the relationship with a lot of debt may feel more comfortable with separate accounts. Others simply want to maintain financial independence within their relationship.
“Over the years, I’ve had over a hundred spouses tell me how they wish they had their own money to spend freely without fear of judgement from their spouses,” says Sam Dogen of Yahoo Finance . Being able to spend your own money on hobbies, clothes, gifts, and other expenses without being held accountable to your partner is empowering.
One benefit of having complete financial independence is that it keeps lines of communication open as couples have to talk about money regularly in the course of their daily lives. Paying bills, for example, is more likely to become a conversation when money is separated.
Too often, when couples pool their money the responsibility of managing all the finances falls to one person. Not only is this a large burden for one partner to carry, but it can also leave the other partner feeling “clueless” about what’s happening with the finances, which is a dangerous situation to be in when an illness, death, or end to the relationship occurs.
On the other hand, separating finances requires trust from both partners – for this strategy to work you both need to trust that the other is managing their finances wisely, not racking up debt, and not doing anything underhanded without the other partner knowing.
Find Your Groove
According to Sonya Britt, an assistant professor with Kansas State University , “arguments about money is by far the top predictor of divorce.” It’s no wonder, then, that the question of whether to separate or combine finances is an important one for couples. So, how do you know which approach will work best for you?
"Couples should try different ways of handling the money to see what works for them," Ginita Wall, CFP and co-founder of the Women's Institute for Financial Education told Fox News . Ultimately, the best thing to do is to experiment to see what works. If the approach you take isn’t working, don’t be afraid to try something new. But most importantly, always keep the lines of communication open and opt for financial transparency with your partner, no matter which approach you take.
What do you think? Do you and your partner combine or separate your finances? What advice would you share with others trying to navigate the age-old question?
Bell, Grayson. My Argument for Married Couples Keeping Separate Finances. Debt Roundup. March 20, 2017. Available online: https://www.debtroundup.com/marriage-separate-finances-argument/
Bloom, Ester. Ask Penny: Do married couples really need to have a joint account? CNBC. March 20, 2017. Available online: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/20/ask-penny-do-married-couples-need-a-joint-account.html
Britt, Sonya. Researcher finds correlation between financial arguments, decreased relationship satisfaction. Kansas State University K-State News. July 12, 2013. Available online: http://www.k-state.edu/media/newsreleases/jul13/predictingdivorce71113.html
Carrick, Rob. Why the joint bank account is a must for married couples. The Globe and Mail. April 7, 2014. Available online: https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/personal-finance/household-finances/why-the-joint-bank-account-is-a-must-for-married-couples/article17858685/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&
Dogen, Sam. Why married couples should have separate bank accounts. Yahoo Finance. July 15, 2017. Available online: https://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/married-couples-separate-bank-accounts-132002220.html
Joint or Separate Accounts? That is the Question. Young and Thrifty Saving Generation Y. Accessed November 8, 2017. Available online: https://youngandthrifty.ca/joint-or-separate-accounts-that-is-the-question/
Love & Money: Millennial Couples are savvier than their youth would suggest, TD Bank Survey reveals. TD Bank via PR News Wire. September 12, 2016. Available online: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/love--money-millennial-couples-are-savvier-than-their-youth-would-suggest-td-bank-survey-reveals-300326108.html
Satov, Tamar. Should Couples Have Separate Bank Accounts? Canadian Living. Available online: http://www.canadianliving.com/life-and-relationships/money-and-career/article/should-couples-have-separate-bank-accounts
Should you manage money jointly or separately? The Money Advice Service. Accessed November 6, 2017. Available online: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/should-we-manage-money-jointly-or-separately
The Six Financial Mistakes Couples Make. Fox News. August 30, 2005. Available online: http://www.foxnews.com/story/2005/08/30/six-financial-mistakes-couples-make.html
Weliver, David. How Do You Split Expenses with Your Partner or Spouse? February 14, 2017. Available online: https://www.moneyunder30.com/how-do-you-split-expenses-with-your-partner-or-spouse
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@Gramz53- I'm so glad, thanks for your comment! I personally enjoyed taking small moments over the last week or so to practice gratitude; it's a good habit. Thanks for being a MIX member! Cheers, KristinA
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With our busy lives we’ve become jugglers – balancing stressful work flows, meetings, social lives, family time, going to the gym, kids’ extracurriculars, and being a support system for partners, parents and friends.
Whichever stage you’re at, Thanksgiving is certainly a time to reflect on your busy life with a lens of gratitude. A busy life is a full life, after all!
But Thanksgiving is not the only time to show gratitude. There are plenty of ways that we can encourage daily gratitude at home and at the office, and plenty of reasons why we should! Expressing gratitude increases health and happiness and reduces stress and depression .
Here’s how you can add gratitude to your daily life at work and at home:
Keep a daily gratitude journal
Whether you use a notebook, keep a digital journal, or use an app, keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to remind yourself of the amazing things happening around you. Keep your journal in an accessible spot (so you remember to use it) and write 3 to 5 things you’re thankful for that day.
Whether you’re thankful to have such wonderful co-workers, thankful to the person who paid for your morning coffee, or thankful you pushed yourself further at the gym, when you look back on the entries in your journal you’ll be surprised by all the little things you appreciate in your life!
Start a daily gratitude jar
Much like the journal, the jar can be your source of daily appreciation at work or at home (or both). Get your co-workers and family involved in writing down one or two things they appreciate and make a point to share some of those appreciative notes with each other at a weekly team meeting or at the family dinner table. At the very least it’ll give you something new to talk about, but you’ll be surprised by how much it can help improve the relationships with the people you spend the most time with.
Tell People You’re Thankful
When it comes to employee motivation, you might be surprised to learn that pay isn’t the top factor . According to Time , studies show that “thanking your colleagues can have a bottom line impact.” Verbal recognition can be as small as complimenting a colleague on a task well done or acknowledging their achievements during a larger group meeting.
Celebrate similar wins at home with your family by recognizing your partner for helping with the housework, or thanking your children for helping a sibling. Take it all a step further by asking those individuals what their accomplishment means to them; it will give them a chance to express themselves and keep lines of communication open. Something we can all be thankful for!
Give Gestures of Gratitude
Unexpected and creative gifts go a long way in showing gratitude. It can be as small as a cup of coffee for your co-worker, knitting a scarf for your friend, or picking up your partner’s favorite snack on the way home. Small ‘anytime’ gifts can be given any day without breaking your wallet. These sweet and thoughtful gestures of gratitude are special ways to ‘show’ rather than ‘say’ thank you.
We're thankful for our members. What are you thankful for and how do you express your gratitude?
Read more about the benefits of gratitude:
Dunn, Lauren. Be thankful: Science says gratitude is good for your health. Today. May 12, 2017. Available online: https://www.today.com/health/be-thankful-science-says-gratitude-good-your-health-t58256
Hixon, James., M.D. Gratitude Reduces Stress. Mindful Living Network. December 2, 2016. Available online: http://www.mindfullivingnetwork.com/health-benefits-of-gratitude-in-reducing-stress-and-depression/
LaMotte, Susan S. Want to Keep Your Employees and Coworkers Happy? Say “Thank You” Today. Time. March 11, 2015. Available online: http://time.com/3740468/want-to-keep-your-employees-and-coworkers-happy-say-thank-you-today/
Morin, Amy. 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round. Forbes Entrepreneurs. November 23, 2014. Available online: https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/#3cfe487b183c
White, Doug and Polly. Money is Nice, But It’s Not Enough to Motivate Employees. Entrepreneur. Accessed October 24, 2017. Available online: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/247333 .
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@ABGG89- Thanks for checking in and keeping us accountable; you're right. Typically we only status ideas as "In Development" if we're planning to deliver them within 12 months and yes, we've clearly passed the mark on bringing you travel notes (thus far). We know it's much anticipated and has huge time-saving and convenience benefits, we're looking forward to it ourselves. I do know we're planning for internal testing soon, which means we're getting closer to being able to make travel notifications available to you online. We'll provide updates here as we learn more about the timing. Cheers, KristinA
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@CrazyHusky- Thanks for adding your feedback to this idea exchange, we'll be sure to share your specific comments with our Digital team, along with the results of the survey. Timing and TIME of alerts are definitely important aspects of this feature. We do have a predetermined "Quiet Time" of 12am midnight to 7am PST, which isn't customizable at this point. You do have the option to disable the alerts, but then the security and monitoring benefits of alerts, to begin with, are missed. Thanks for bringing up the idea of more flexibility and personal customization when it comes to our alerts feature. Cheers, KristinA
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Thanks @SeanOchoa for sharing your idea. We have an open survey right now for expanded alert types, and while it's not focused specifically on the "timing", we'd love your input if you haven't had a chance to take it yet. You can check it out here. Cheers, KristinA
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@Shepdog36- Thanks for joining the MIX and jumping right in! We're exploring the option to "pilot" a $5 denomination, but don't have any plans to remove the $100 option as we rely heavily on our ATMs for most cash transactions. Cheers, KristinA
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Everything You Need to Know About Bitcoins
In the Sacramento Valley in 1848 gold nuggets were found, sparking one of America’s most historically significant events – the Gold Rush. According to History.com , as news spread thousands of people traveled to San Francisco in search of gold and by 1852 $2 billion worth of gold is believed to have been extracted from the area.
Today, many people are investing and dealing in unregulated digital currencies like Bitcoin, just as people invested in gold during the time of the “wild west.” In an August study by LendEDU, “more than a third of millennials said they planned to invest in Bitcoin,” despite concerns about “the currency’s security, anonymity, usability, and increasingly, legality," Bank Innovation's Grace Noto reports.
Although they’ve been around since 2009, digital currencies like Bitcoin are gaining more and more mainstream attention. We also had an interested member post an idea here in the MIX; Thanks @PeterFA for sparking the discussion!
If you’re currently asking yourself “what’s a Bitcoin?,” or “why should I care about digital currencies?,” then we suggest reading this Lifewire article by Paul Gil , which provides a good foundation about Bitcoins, which are currently the most popular form of digital currency (there are more than 700 different types).
Our guest expert Nidhi Shandilya, Senior Digital Payments Manager here at BECU recently weighed in on the digital currency landscape and what it means to us as a credit union, and to you as our members.
According to Nidhi, Bitcoin has sparked excitement not just because of the digital currency, but because there are actually three distinct innovations related to the underlying technology. These are:
Digital currency - a type of currency only available in digital form. This technology allows for instant and borderless transactions and transfers
Distributed ledgers - the technology used to manage the digital currency
Blockchain - an algorithm used to record transactions across many computers.
Together, these three powerful innovations have the potential to remove existing barriers and inefficiencies in our current payment systems (even across broad industries like healthcare). What’s even more interesting is that the applications of these technologies can extend beyond the concept of digital currency into other applications – applications which have yet to be determined. At BECU we’re closely watching this technological evolution.
Are digital currencies like Bitcoin just a passing fad? Nidhi says they’re here to stay in some form, but whether that is the current form or a new one has yet to be determined. Here’s what you need to know and what BECU is watching out for.
Let’s Start with the Basics: What is a Digital Currency?
A digital currency is not the same as an online payment, or the online banking that you’re using here at BECU. The online monetary systems that you use to pay bills, transfer money, or collect your pay use digital payment systems which are done in USD and other Fiat currencies.
Digital currencies, which are also called electronic currency, or 'cryptocurrency' are a form of digital public money that is unregulated by banks or governments. Digital currencies are collected by individuals and can be exchanged for common currency (like USD, for example) to pay for goods or services.
While Bitcoin is the most popular form of digital currency, there are other forms, referred to as altcoins. Some altcoins are improved versions of Bitcoin. According to Investopedia, other than Bitcoin, the top digital currencies are:
Dash (formerly known as Darkcoin)
Currently, these currencies are all “mined,” by individuals and consortiums, are all uninsured and unregulated and therefore, have varying levels of risk to anyone dealing in them.
What, Exactly Are Bitcoins and How Do They Work?
Bitcoins and other forms of digital currency are “electricity converted into long strings of code that have monetary value,” Gil says. Bitcoins are not tangible – you can’t hold them – and because they’re virtual there’s no need for banks to move or store them.
According to Gil, “once you own Bitcoins, they behave like physical gold coins: they possess value and trade just as if they were nuggets of gold in your pocket. You can use your Bitcoins to purchase goods and services online, or you can tuck them away and hope that their value increases over the years.”
Essentially, you keep Bitcoins in your “wallet,” which is a personal database that you store electronically (on a USB drive, on your computer drive, on your smartphone or tablet, or in the cloud). But, whatever you do, don’t lose them! Once lost, your Bitcoins are gone forever. They’re not insured against theft or fraud because they’re an unregulated currency. It’s up to you, the owner, to create your own cyber security to ensure your Bitcoins are not hacked.
Where Do Bitcoins Come From?
Just like gold nuggets, Bitcoins are “mined” by individuals, except these miners use their computers to create the digital currency. However, Bitcoins are extremely difficult to make and to do so would mean setting your computer up to solve labor-intensive mathematical equations which could take days to complete.
The fact that they’re so computationally-intensive to create is part of the value creation of a digital currency. In other words, the effort to create the currency creates value. The combination of the Blockchain algorithm and the distributed ledger used to manage the currency is what makes Bitcoins very forgery resistant. It isn’t financially worth it for counterfeiters to manipulate the system.
You might be wondering where the value comes from, considering Bitcoins can be created at home. Just like gold, there is a finite number of Bitcoins. “Bitcoins will stop being created when the total number reaches 21 billion coins, which will be sometime around the year 2040. As of 2017, more than half of those Bitcoins had been created,” Gil says.
Concerns Surrounding Digital Currency
At BECU, we’re monitoring the digital currency landscape, but we’re not ready to jump in yet, Nidhi says, primarily because of three major concerns:
Regulatory concerns: As mentioned earlier, most digital currencies are currently unregulated, which means there is no way to protect consumers. With no protections around holding or exchanging this currency many cryptocurrencies are a global favorite of criminals for trading in illegal goods and services.
The fluctuations in the value of digital currency: Digital currencies have gained or lost as much as 30% or more of their value in one day. This volatility in its inherent value makes it less than ideal for use as a daily currency.
For example: imagine one cryptocurrency is worth $20.00. You decide to buy a game with that one cryptocurrency today. But tomorrow, the value of that cryptocurrency increased by 30%. Your one cryptocurrency is now worth $26. Well that game, which still costs only $20 USD, now cost you $26 only a day later.
Conversely, if the cryptocurrency lost 30% of its value, then you might have to pay 1.3 Bitcoins to get that same game. There are very few Fiat currencies in the world that ever come close to having this type of volatility and most of those countries would typically be experiencing hyper-inflation and significant political instability with the same level of volatility.
Multiple data breaches of digital currency and its technology. As you may have already heard, many of the global giants who do process cryptocurrency trades have been hacked and Bitcoins have been stolen or lost because criminals were able to steal the keys that tie a cryptocurrency to a person. Once those keys are stolen and the cryptocurrency is traded, it is irrevocable – gone forever. Unlike a regulated environment where a victim has protections and rights; they do not in this environment.
As a credit union, we have a fiduciary responsibility to you, our members and our charter, and as such, digital currency has too many inherent risks to our members for us to take any action on this innovation yet. Some may say we’re playing it safe, but we’re not yet ready to test the waters at the expense of the security and protection of our members. We’re not leading the pack with digital currency, and we’re okay with that. We would never offer a product or service merely to garner attention for innovation or to generate income.
With that being said, we’re committed to following digital currency trends to stay up to date on the pros and cons surrounding this new frontier. Needless to say, we’re following the story of Bitcoin and other altcoins closely, to see how this “wild west” scenario pans out.
What about you? Are you using digital currency? Would you? Please share your questions, concerns and opinions. We’d love to see how digital currencies like Bitcoins are changing your financial experience.
Drop your comments and questions below, or join the discussion thread.
Recommended further reading:
Bajpai, Prableen. The 6 Most Important Cryptocurrencies Other Than Bitcoin. Investopedia. April 21, 2017. Available online: http://www.investopedia.com/tech/6-most-important-cryptocurrencies-other-bitcoin/.
Gil, Paul. What Are Bitcoins? How Do Bitcoins Work? Lifewire. Accessed October 5, 2017. Available online: https://www.lifewire.com/what-are-bitcoins-2483146.
History.com Staff. The Gold Rush of 1849. History.com. Published by A&E Networks. Accessed October 10, 2017. Available online: http://www.history.com/topics/gold-rush-of-1849.
IBM.com Staff. Understand the Fundamentals of IBM Blockchain. IBM. Accessed October 10, 2017. Available online: https://www.ibm.com/blockchain/what-is-blockchain.html
Noto, Grace. Millennials Prefer Staid Investing to Cryptocurrencies, Robinhood Co-founder Said. Bank Innovation. October 11, 2017. Available online: https://bankinnovation.net/2017/10/millennials-prefer-traditional-stock-trading-to-bitcoin-robinhood-co-founder-said.
theSkimm Staff. theSkimm’s Guide to Bitcoin. theSkimm. July 26, 2017. Available online: https://www.theskimm.com/skimm-guides/what-is-bitcoin
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@Coolcolly- Thanks for checking in on this! We’ve experienced the (inevitable) delays, but we’re hopeful it will be available by year-end. We’ll keep a pulse on it and provide an update as we learn more. Cheers, KristinA
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@em_nado- Thanks for sharing your idea and project experience, how cool! Was there anything to stop someone from just snoozing reminders and then the payment becomes overdue? I've talked with members personally who like to receive ebills, where they can then schedule the bill payment themselves, as opposed to having everything on autopay, which provides a bit more control than autopay. Thanks for being part of this community! Cheers, KristinA
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Thanks @DWhipple for taking a look! Fair call- the survey is around "types" as opposed to "timeliness", but I was anticipating (hoping?!) those engaged in this discussion may also be interested in expanded types as well. Thanks for checking back in Dan! Cheers, KristinA
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