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TOM SAKASHSTAFF NEWSWRITER

News Now

February 26, 2015

Independent reports affirm CDFIs are stable, meet their mission

Washington
WASHINGTON (2/26/15)--Two independent reports released by the U.S. Treasury's Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) Fund Wednesday show that CDFIs are as stable as mainstream lenders and meet their mission of serving the underserved.

According to the CDFI Fund, the reports are the first comparative analysis of the effectiveness of CDFIs compared with mainstream lenders.

CDFIs are specialized financial institutions working in markets that are underserved by traditional financial institutions. The CDFI Fund provides monetary awards and tax credit unions to CDFIs in order to promote access to capital and economic growth.

As of Jan. 31, credit unions make up 243 of 936 certified CDFIs.

The first report , from the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire, is an analysis of the impact of financial assistance awards from the CDFI program on CDFI loan fund recipients.

Highlights include:
  • CDFI loan funds deliver between roughly two-thirds to more than 90% of all loan volume to borrowers living in a CDFI Fund-designated investment area;
     
  • From 2005 through 2012, Community Reinvestment Act reported lending decreased while CDFI loan fund reported lending more than tripled; and
     
  • CDFI loan funds provide borrowers who may not qualify for loans from mainstream sources with loan terms and interest rates that are still comparable to mainstream products.
The second report was conducted by individuals from Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia and the Stanford Graduate School of Business. It is an analysis of CDFI credit unions and banks, assessing stability and operational efficiency relative to mainstream financial institutions.

Highlights include:
  • CDFI institutions were found to be as stable as mainstream financial institutions, even after adjusting for the CDFIs' degree of involvement in the mortgage market during the financial crisis; and
     
  • Despite serving predominately low-income markets, CDFI credit unions and banks had virtually the same level of performance as mainstream financial institutions.

CFPB may temporarily suspend credit card agreement submissions

Washington
WASHINGTON (2/26/15)--Credit card issuers could see a reduced burden for one year under a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) proposal issued this week.

The proposal would temporarily suspend a requirement that each quarter certain credit card issuers send their agreements to the CFPB.

Credit card issuers' submissions that would otherwise be due to the bureau by April 30, July 31 and Oct. 31 of 2015, and Jan. 31, 2016, would be suspended. Issuers would resume submitting credit card agreements on a quarterly basis starting April 30, 2016.

The CFPB intends to develop an automated electronic submission system, meant to be easier than the current manual submission system.

The 2009 Credit Cards Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act required credit card issuers to post consumer agreements on their websites, as well as submit them to the CFPB. The bureau maintains a public database on its website.

The CFPB is accepting comments on whether the one-year period should start as soon as a final rule is published in the Federal Register , or whether a later effective date is more appropriate. Comments are not being accepted on a potential new submission system.

Comments must be submitted by March 13.

Deadline approaching for low-income CU grant assistance

Washington
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (2/26/15)--Low-income credit unions (LICU) interested in grant assistance from the National Credit Union Administration for internships and training have until March 3 to submit their applications to the agency.
 
This first round of applications for 2015 technical assistance grants opened Feb. 2 ( News Now Dec. 18). LICUs  may apply online and information about the grant round and application guidelines can be accessed here .
 
The grant program is administered by the NCUA's Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives.
 
According to the NCUA, it will provide at least $360,000 in grants for more than 100 credit unions during the first round of 2015. The intern and training grants are considered separate initiatives by the NCUA, and interested credit unions can apply for both.

Inside Washington (2/26/15)

Washington
  • ALEXANDRIA, Va. (2/26/15)-- Today, the National Credit Union Administration brings back #NCUACHAT for a live Twitter chat for a social media conversation about America and Military Saves Week . The chat starts at 11 a.m. (ET) and those interested in joining in can follow  @MyCUgov  and use the hashtag #NCUAChat on Twitter. Participants can submit questions in advance to socialmedia@ncua.gov ...
  • WASHINGTON (2/26/15)-- Rep. Maxine Waters of California, who is the ranking Democrat on  the House Financial Services Committee said at a hearing Wednesday that she could be open to considering some technical changes or modification to the Dodd-Frank Act, changes that would address confusion or duplication ( Bloomberg First Word Feb. 25). She made her remarks at the panel's hearing where Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen was making her semiannual report in the House on monetary policy and the economy. Yellen, on the topic of Dodd-Frank, said the Fed is not seeking any congressional changes to Dodd-Frank and maintained that the law provides enough flexibility for regulators to tailor rules as needed ...
  • NEW YORK (2/26/15)-- Benjamin Lawsky, superintendent of New York's Department of Financial Services , said in a speech Wednesday that the state is considering whether to require financial institution senior executives to attest to the adequacy of their institution's transaction monitoring systems ( American Banker Feb. 25). In a speech delivered at Columbia Law School in New York City, Lawton said the rule would be modeled on the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which makes executives personally responsible for accounting fraud. In prepared remarks Lawton said that regulators believe there are widespread problems with transaction monitoring and filtering systems and it is not enough for regulators to bring enforcement actions when they find a problem. He said his agency is also considering random audits of a supervised institution's anti-money laundering system to assess whether it successfully identifies suspicious transactions ...

Feb. 28 is application deadline for CFPB advisory seats

Washington
WASHINGTON (2/26/15)--Those interested in a spot on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Consumer Advisory Board or Credit Union Advisory Council (CUAC) have just two days left to get in their applications .
 
Membership in the councils is comprised of consumers and representatives of communities, the financial services industry and academia.
 
Appointments to the councils are generally for two years but can be modified by the CFPB director. New members of the councils will begin their terms this fall.
 
The CUAC was formed to ensure the bureau heard from smaller credit unions that fall outside its regulatory scope but will still be impacted, in some form, by CFPB regulations or actions. The council will generally advise the bureau on how its regulation of consumer financial products or services will affect credit unions with less than $10 billion in assets.

CUs' youth fin. lit. initiatives get FLEC spotlight

Washington
WASHINGTON (2/26/15)--Credit unions got a chance to highlight their mission of increasing youth financial literacy Wednesday before the U.S. Treasury's Financial Literacy and Education Commission (FLEC).

Click to view larger image National Credit Union Foundation Executive Director Gigi Hyland talks about credit unions' youth financial literacy efforts at the U.S. Treasury's FLEC meeting. (CUNA Photo)
National Credit Union Foundation Executive Director Gigi Hyland and Bill Lawton, president/CEO of Plymouth, Mich.-based Community Financial CU, made up one-half of a panel highlighting efforts nationwide to increase youth financial literacy, one of the primary tasks of FLEC.

Hyland detailed the foundation and CUNA's financial literacy efforts, which include outreach to schools around the country through websites and events such as financial reality fairs. The fairs allow students to identify a career choice, see the starting salary and use that salary to create a budget for basic living expenses.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray, a member of FLEC, told Hyland he is an "enormous fan" of the financial reality fairs. He has seen the superintendent of his children's school district ensure those events take place.

Click to view larger image Bill Lawton, president/CEO of Community Financial CU, shares his credit union's financial literacy efforts in Michigan before the U.S. Treasury's FLEC. (CUNA Photo)
"It is to me a uniquely important exercise," he said. "It's a real reality check to recognize that there's a whole financial side and to see how much is involved, how complicated it can be and how perilous that can be. It's really something they do need to think about."

Lawton, when asked how to connect credit unions and other financial institutions with local schools, said it's all about relationship building.

"I think we need to build on the success stories we have," he said. "It's about building relationships and getting connected to the right person, someone who can champion it in the district and also in the schools."

He added that it's a balancing act for institutions, schools, parents and students, because while it's not prudent to expand too quickly and spread efforts too thin, financial institutions should understand that the efforts are good for everyone involved long term.

The panel came a day after the release of interagency guidance on youth savings from federal financial regulators. Video of the meeting is available online .

CUNA continues to press for patent law reforms

Washington
WASHINGTON (2/26/15)--CUNA continues to press for patent law reforms that would ban abusive patent demand letters and lawsuits that can harm the financial services industry, as well as the consumers it serves.

In a statement with other trades, submitted for the record of today's House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Patent Demand Letter Practices and Solutions, CUNA laid out principles that should be applied to any forthcoming patent reform legislation.

"We fully support (the committee's) goal of developing legislation to tackle the scourge of bad faith patent demand letters. Financial institutions of every size have been targeted by Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs), often referred to as patent trolls, who in most cases assert patents of dubious quality through vaguely worded demand letters or intentionally vague complaints."

The letter adds that hundreds of credit unions and banks have been targeted by such entities, "using tactics resembling fraud or extortion."

Chief among any legislative solution should be provisions clarifying the Federal Trade Commission's authority to fight against deceptive practices, while not affecting legitimate patent holders' rights to assert their patent rights.

"In addition, we note that states have proven to be effective laboratories for developing and furthering robust policy relating to patent trolls. While most states could see a reduction in unsubstantiated bad faith demand letters if this legislation were to be enacted, the bill should also allow states that have proactively enacted laws to discourage bad faith demand letters to continue to enforce them," the letter reads. "If state law is preempted, it is imperative that strong and enforceable national standards for demand letter transparency be put in place."

The principles that should be included in any patent reform legislation fall into three categories:
  • Efficiency of the litigation process: Improvements are needed to make the cost and burdens of patent litigation equitable and more efficient;
     
  • Enhanced transparency: Abuse of the patent system through the use of vaguely worded demand letters must be ended by requiring such letters to provide more details about the patent and who claims to assert it; and
     
  • Patent quality: Improvements are needed in the post-grant review of patents such as making the Covered Business Method (CBM) program, which allows for an administrative trial conducted by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to determine the validity of a patent, permanent and more useable for smaller entities. The CBM program is set to expire in 2020.
The hearing is scheduled to being at 10:15 a.m. (ET) and will be streamed online .

Weather puts chill on new-home sales in Northeast

Market
WASHINGTON (2/26/15)--The overall climate for new-home sales remained steady in January, despite a plummeting month for the Northeast, according to the Commerce Department.
 
While new single-family home sales ticked downward 0.2% in January to 481,000 annualized units, they still came in above the expected, and much larger, decline of 3.5%, according to Wednesday's numbers.  Compared with January a year prior, sales were up 5.3%.
 
Figures for December were revised up to 482,000 from an initial estimate of 481,000, making December the strongest month since June 2008 ( The Wall Street Journal Feb. 25).
 
With colder weather and severe snowstorms in play, new-home sales fell 51.6% in the Northeast. This was the largest monthly decline and put sales in the Northeast at a record low, said Moody's analyst Ryan Sweet ( Economy.com Feb. 25). The Northeast accounted for 3% of U.S. new-home sales in January, down from 6% in 2014 and the lowest on record. In other regions, sales rose 19.2% in the Midwest and increased 2.2% in the South. Sales in the West fell 0.8%.

Consumer Rates

Market

Informa Research Services, Inc.
Daily Rate Comparison

Informa Research Services, Inc.
Deposit Products Credit Unions Bank Average Difference
12 Month CD $10,000 0.49% 0.27% 0.22%
Personal Savings $1,000 0.20% 0.09% 0.11%
Personal Interest Checking $2,500 0.36% 0.15% 0.21%
NSF Fee $28.04 $30.70 $-2.66
Personal MMDA $2,500 0.17% 0.10% 0.07%
Business MMDA $2,500 0.17% 0.09% 0.08%

Consumer Loan Products Credit Unions Bank Average Difference
Unsecured Personal Loan - $5,000 - 4 Years 10.10% 10.22% -0.12%
New Auto Loan - 5 Years 2.60% 3.74% -1.14%
Used Auto Loan - 2 year Old - 4 Years 2.76% 3.99% -1.23%
HELOC - 80% LTV - $50,000 4.12% 4.35% -0.23%
HE Loan - 80% LTV - $50,000 - 15 Years 5.60% 5.85% -0.25%

Mortgage Loan Products Credit Unions Bank Average Difference
30 Year Fixed Conforming 3.80% 3.80% 0.00%
30 Year Fixed Jumbo 3.88% 3.88% 0.00%
5/1 Year ARM Conforming 3.03% 2.95% 0.08%

Credit Card Products Credit Unions Bank Average Difference
Platinum 8.85% 10.43% -1.58%
Annual Fee $25.00 $31.00 $-6.00
Maximum Late Fee $25.51 $31.82 $-6.31
Reward 10.09% 13.02% -2.93%
Annual Fee $29.62 $94.15 $-64.53
Maximum Late Fee $22.21 $33.02 $-10.81

Indirect Auto Loan Products Credit Unions Bank Average Difference
Indirect A Tier New Auto Loan - 5 Years 3.57% 3.64% -0.07%
Indirect B Tier New Auto Loan - 5 Years 5.26% 5.20% 0.06%
Indirect C Tier New Auto Loan - 5 Years 7.47% 6.65% 0.83%

Averages displayed are straight averages of all institutions within the Informa Research Services database for the selected region as of Wednesday, February 25, 2015. For detailed disclosures click here.

Business Rates

Market
Daily Financial Rates -- 2015-02-26

Financial Rates


Thursday, February 26, 2015

03:55 AM CST

TREASURY YIELD CURVE
(based on the $1 million market)

TermThu
2/26
Wed
2/25
Tue
2/24
Mon
2/23
Fri
2/20
1 month0.020.020.010.020.02
3 month0.020.020.020.020.02
6 month0.070.080.080.070.07
1 year0.210.220.220.230.23
2 year0.610.600.640.670.67
3 year0.980.971.031.071.05
5 year1.471.471.561.611.58
7 year1.781.791.881.941.92
10 year1.961.992.062.132.11
20 year2.352.382.442.502.50
30 year2.562.602.662.732.73

TREASURY BILLS

Results of the February 23, 2015 auction of short-term U.S. government bills, sold at a discount from face value in units of $10,000 to $ 1 million

TermLatest
Mon, 2/23
Week Ago
Tue, 2/17
13 weeks0.0200.015
26 weeks0.0650.065

PRIME RATE

3.25% Last changed December 16, 2008

FEDERAL FUNDS

TermThu
2/26
Wed
2/25
Tue
2/24
Mon
2/23
Fri
2/20
high0.3120.3120.3120.3120.312
low0.0500.0200.0300.0400.040
near closing bid0.1000.0800.0400.0800.060
offered0.1300.2800.0600.1200.080
effective rate20.1400.1300.1300.1400.140

FREDDIE MAC (Mortgage commitments, 30 days)

TermThu
2/26
Wed
2/25
Tue
2/24
Mon
2/23
Fri
2/20
30 year0.000.000.000.000.00

FANNIE MAE (Mortgage commitments, 30 days)

TermThu
2/26
Wed
2/25
Tue
2/24
Mon
2/23
Fri
2/20
30 year3.3313.3913.4113.4063.386

LIBOR

TermThu
2/26
Wed
2/25
Tue
2/24
Mon
2/23
Fri
2/20
1 month0.236000.237000.235000.238000.23800
3 month0.386000.384000.386000.388000.38800
6 month0.540000.540000.540000.539000.53900
1 year0.840000.841000.840000.840000.84000

COMMERCIAL PAPER (Financial, 90 days)

TermWeek ended
2/24
Week ended
2/18
90 days0.230.23

NA: Data not available at time of page generation (shown at top of page)

Sources:
Wall Street Journal
U.S. Dept. of the Treasury


All rates are from the previous business day unless otherwise noted.

2 league-backed PLS bills introduced in Minn.

CU System
ST. PAUL, Minn. (2/26/15)--Prize-linked savings (PLS) accounts may soon spread into Minnesota, as two bills sponsored by the Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) allowing credit unions to offer such accounts were introduced in both the Minnesota House and Senate this week.

With massive support from leagues and CUNA, a number of states across the country have passed legislation permitting credit unions to offer PLS accounts.

The accounts, designed to encourage savings, work by offering members entries into cash-prize drawings each time they deposit a set amount of money into a savings account. 

There's no risk on behalf of the member, as those who lose out on the cash prizes still win in the form of healthy savings accounts.

"MnCUN worked diligently to get these bills introduced," said Mara Humphrey, vice president of governmental affairs. Humphrey also thanked the state lawmakers who authored the bills in the Legislature: Sen. Vicki Jensen (D-Owatonna) and Rep. Jennifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie).

PLS accounts so far have been approved in 10 states, including Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Washington. A bill allowing PLS accounts in Virginia only awaits the governor's signature.

Since 2009, credit unions offering PLS accounts have helped more than 50,000 members save $94 million.

DHS workers can rely on CUs in case of gov't shutdown

CU System
WASHINGTON (2/26/15)--As both sides of the aisle in the U.S. Congress continue debate of a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), dollars needed to pay federal employees as soon as this weekend hang in the balance.

Credit unions with federal employee membership bases aren't waiting to see how the funding fight all shakes out.

For example, Transportation FCU, Washington, D.C., is offering a furlough loan program to those who might be affected by the potential shutdown, Jeffrey Arvai, Transportation president/CEO, told News Now Wednesday.

Through the program, members will have the ability to receive two weeks of net pay with an 18-month repayment term at an annual rate of 4.5%, with the first payment deferred for the first 45 days.

Transportation FCU also will allow members who already have loans with the credit union to skip one monthly payment, Arvai said.

"We have already had some members contact us," Arvai told News Now . "We've done this in the past for other government shutdowns, and I think our members are aware we try to do everything we can when situations like this arise."

Transportation serves employees within the DHS such as Transportation Security Administration employees and members of the U.S. Coast Guard, both of which may soon have to begin working without pay.

Justice FCU, Chantilly, Va., also announced recently it's prepared to offer special assistance to federal employees in the form of unsecured, low-interest rate loans and deferred payments to all members who work for the Department of Justice and the DHS.

Those affected by the shutdown can apply for an unsecured loan of up to $10,000 at an annual rate of 0% for the first 60 days. After 60 days, the rate moves to 4.9% for 24 months. The loan amount is based on the member's net pay deposit.

Further, members may defer their first loan payment for up to 60 days.

"Supporting the Justice community is a vital part of our mission," said Peter Sainato, Justice president/CEO. "We were there for our members during the last government shutdown and stand ready to offer special assistance for them once again."

Justice will allow members with existing loans at the credit union to defer one payment per loan as well.

A LifeLine Loan is being offered by Hanscom FCU , Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. The credit union's membership also includes employees of U.S. Customs and Border Protection , Federal Emergency Management Agency and Secret Service.

Members can request the loans, equal to one month's net payroll of up to $5,000. No payment is required within the first 60 days on the 0% loan. If the loan is not repaid within 60 days, the loan converts to an installment loan at 8.49% APR that members can repay over a 12-month period.

Hanscom FCU also will waive penalties for premature withdrawals on certificates of deposit and allow qualified members to skip consumer loan payments with no fee.

"We have always stood by members whose income or benefits are affected by furloughs, and we continue to be here for members," said Hanscom Board Chair Paul Marotta.

CU System briefs (2/26/15)

CU System
  • SUITLAND, Md. (2/26/15)-- Andrews FCU, Suitland, Md., sponsored 20 Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) students for a breakfast with the East Coast Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. earlier this month . Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronnie D Hawkins Jr. delivered the keynote speech to the units from high schools in Prince George's County, Maryland. Rosalind Bishop, Andrews FCU regional manager, meets three of the four original Tuskegee Airmen who attended, from left, Dr. Ivan Ware, Major Anderson and James Pryde. William Fauntroy Jr. also was at the event. (Andrews FCU Photo) ...
  • PHILADELPHIA (2/26/15)-- American Heritage FCU President/CEO Bruce Foulke presented a check to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia representing the one-millionth dollar donated to the hospital this week . The Philadelphia credit union's Kids-N-Hope Foundation raised $100,000 in 2014 for the hospital's music therapy program, which purchases musical equipment, provides a music therapist and brings in performers specially trained in assisting children with developmental disabilities ...

Legislators take notice during Wash. CU advocate visits

CU System
OLYMPIA, Wash. (2/26/15)--Washington legislators took notice of state credit union advocates who gathered in Olympia on Feb. 19 for two reasons: Their wardrobe and the size of their group.
 
Click to view larger image Washington credit union advocates, distinguished by their yellow scarves, visited all 156 legislative offices in Olympia, sharing the results of the economic impact report and the stories about the credit union difference. (Northwest Credit Union Association Photo)
Washington state credit union advocates were decked out in distinctive yellow scarves. The 150 advocates represented the largest showing of credit union support the state Capitol has ever seen, according to the Northwest Credit Union Association (NWCUA) ( Anthem Feb. 25).
 
Representatives visited all 156 legislative offices to share the credit union difference with Washington lawmakers.
 
This is the third year Washington credit union advocates have worn the yellow scarves, in what has quickly become a tradition.
 
Advocates started the day by hearing from Washington Director of the Department for Financial Institutions Scott Jarvis, who is a member of the governor's cabinet. "This is a remarkable number of people," he said. "When legislators see a group of this size, they take notice."
 
After a send-off from the NWCUA governmental affairs team, advocates split up to strategically visit every legislative office, so that each lawmaker heard the credit union story from his or her constituents.
 
Advocates shared the recent economic impact report from ECONorthwest , which shows that Washington credit unions generated $4.9 billion in economic impact in 2014, employed more than 10,000 people in family wage jobs, and created $249 million in direct benefits for their members. In addition, each legislator received a report showing how his or her district benefited from the economic impact of credit unions.
 
"The not-for-profit cooperative credit union structure comes with an obligation--that we take seriously--to deliver real tangible value to the consumer," said Troy Stang, NWCUA president/CEO, told advocates. "You know you do that every day, and now the ECONorthwest research validates the value of the direct member benefits and their ripple impact through our local and state economy."

McCarthy, Heck visit Calif., Nev. CUs

CU System
ONTARIO, Calif. (2/26/15)--Two members of the U.S. Congress visited credit unions in California and Nevada last week during the President's Day district work period, the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues reported.

Click to view larger image House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), center, with California credit union leaders.
In California, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), visited with San Diego-area credit unions at California Coast CU, San Diego. The second-highest ranking official in the House of Representatives and longtime credit union member described his experience as a small business owner, and how his first loans were from a local credit union ( CU Weekly Feb. 23).
 
He also discussed cybersecurity, regulatory relief for credit unions, and the state of Congress as an institution. Participants attended from Mission FCU, San Diego; North Island CU, San Diego; Paradise Valley FCU, National City; Escondido FCU; San Diego County CU, San Diego; and California Coast CU.
 
In Nevada, credit union leaders met with Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), a longtime ally of credit unions.
 
Click to view larger image Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), center, with Nevada credit union leaders. (California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues Photos)
In the 2014 elections, two credit unions--Clark County CU, Las Vegas, and Boulder Dam CU, Boulder City--sent mailers to members who live in Heck's district.
 
The communications, known as partisan communications, were sent during the last election cycle in a coordinated effort with CUNA and the Nevada Credit Union League to support Heck in his re-election campaign.
 
As membership organizations, credit unions are allowed to communicate with their members about candidates for office. Unlike traditional independent expenditures, which must be implemented without the knowledge of the campaign, member-communications can be accomplished in connection with, and input from, the campaign.

CUNA's Tiffany: Tips to hasten payment of a long-term mortgage in MainStreet.com

CU System
NEW YORK (2/26/15)--Increasing the frequency of mortgage payments is one way homeowners can trim some time off the length of their mortgages, according to a CUNA personal finance expert.
 
By bumping mortgage outlays to half-payments every two weeks from once monthly, borrowers can shave up to 2 1/2 years off a 30-year mortgage, CUNA Director of Consumer Periodicals Susan Tiffany told MainStreet.com (Feb. 25).
 
Mortgages typically are the largest and longest debts a borrower carries. However, Tiffany noted that paying off high-interest debt such as credit cards, investing in retirement and building up an emergency fund should be priorities.
 
"If you're carrying credit card debt, I'll bet you a cookie it's at a heck of a lot higher interest rate than your mortgage is," Tiffany told MainStreet . "If you can't pay your credit card bill off every month, you shouldn't be putting extra money toward mortgage payments--you should be putting those extra mortgage payments toward your credit card bills."

Refinancing to a 20- or 15-year mortgage is another option for winnowing down the mortgage term. The longer term of 30 years does provide flexibility, though, for those who have a fluctuating income, Tiffany said. Extra cash can go to the mortgage when possible, but borrowers aren't committed to higher payments.

6 ways to score senior discounts

Consumer
WASHINGTON (2/24/15)--Aging has its perks, in the form of some outstanding discounts. For example, the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands senior pass costs $10 and gives adults age 62 and older lifetime access to 2,000 parks and recreation areas.
 
But senior rates aren't always as good as discounts available to the general public (Kiplinger Feb. 12). Here are six categories worth checking out.
 
Tourist attractions. Before you take the senior rate, compare it with discounts you might receive from online sources. For example, CityPASS offers as much as 50% off the combined prices of admission to popular attractions in 11 major North American destinations. You occasionally can find better deals by visiting Groupon and LivingSocial.
 
Checking accounts. Read the fine print. According to a Pew Charitable Trusts study of checking accounts offered at large financial institutions, seniors must maintain a high balance to get a better deal than what is offered for a basic account.
 
Hotels. Compare hotel chain, AARP, and other senior discounts with what you might get through discount travel websites and apps such as Hotels, Expedia, and EveryLodge.
 
Phone plans. You might meet the age criteria for a plan offered by your wireless carrier, but first compare the offer with those available to everyone, taking into consideration your actual usage. For example, a senior discount might include 200 minutes talk time and charge extra for text messaging and a data plan, whereas a plan that costs less and is available to everyone offers unlimited talk and text plus two gigabytes of data.
 
Rental cars. Your AARP discount can help you pay up to 25% less for Avis and Budget car rentals, but first check the deals you can get through an online deal aggregator such as Hotwire, which can be 21% to 31% lower than the discounted rates offered through Avis and Budget.
 
Double up. Consider pairing discounts with discount gift cards. Visit websites such as CardCash, Cardpool, GiftCards, GiftCardGranny, and Raise to purchase gift cards you can use to pay for goods and services at discounted rates, for example in movie theaters and restaurants.
 
For related information, read "Shop and Save in Every Season" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.
 

LEVERAGE adds accounting, consulting to audit group

Products
BIRMINGHAM, Ala., and TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (2/26/15)--LEVERAGE, an affiliate of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions (LSCU), announced that HLM Accounting and Consulting Services Inc. has joined its CU Audit and Compliance Group.

The new alliance expands the coverage of CU Audit and Compliance Group to Georgia. In addition to Georgia, CU Audit and Compliance Group serves Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi.

"HLM is a great addition to the CU Audit and Compliance Group," said Patrick La Pine, president/CEO of LEVERAGE and LSCU. "By expanding into Georgia, more credit unions can take advantage of the expertise of the CU Audit and Compliance Group. Having an audit done by a company that only works with credit unions is very valuable."

With the addition of HLM Audit and Consulting, CU Audit and Compliance Group now offers supervisory committee audits, interim audits, Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) audits, ACH audits, opinion audits, verification of member accounts, fraud investigation, IRS Form 990 filing, 5300 Call Report filing and consulting.

The CU Audit and Compliance Group has staff members who are CPAs, credit union risk-management experts, credit union compliance experts and BSA compliance specialists.

HLM Audit and Consulting Services was established by Harvey Mayes. The business is currently based in Jacksonville, Fla., and has more than 20 clients located primarily in south Georgia.
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RT @asmarterchoice: According to @Bankrate study, customers more likely to find FREE checking at #Creditunion than a bank! http://t.co/ntCb…
5 hours ago
Ditch monthly subscriptions to save $$, @YoungFreeMI Fielder tells @freep http://t.co/TFnsps4Dui #ASW2015
5 hours ago
.@federalreserve extends comment period for capital surcharges on systemically important U.S. bank holding cos. http://t.co/MOJJBn9DfA
6 hours ago