From WECU® to you, notes from CEO Wayne Langei
Informational Video on Card Compromises from MSN
At WECU® we make every effort to prevent fraud from hitting our members’ accounts. When an information compromise arises we take immediate action to notify our members and put a stop to any potential fraudulent charges. For general information about card compromises, click here to view this informational video from MSN.
Regulatory Update –International Wires
In our December 2012 newsletter we notified you of some upcoming changes to our wire program prompted by regulatory reform. The remittance transfer rule, a result of changes to Regulation E mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) has been further delayed to October 28, 2013. The amendment will require financial institutions to disclose the following: fees for sending the transaction, fees imposed by the receiving financial institutions, and the exchange rate for the funds being sent. In an effort to protect consumers this information must be gathered by the financial institution and disclosed to the consumer at the time the transaction is initiated. WECU® has begun using Western Union for our international wires as their system allows us to collect and disclose all of the required information and is a relatively low cost option.
New Online Banking System Coming in 2013
As technology has advanced the financial wants and needs of our members have evolved. WECU®’s online banking system has grown and changed overtime to accommodate our members, and now we are bringing you an improved platform for your online banking needs. Our new online banking platform is slated to launch in late 2013 and the program will include a whole suite of financial tools as well as improved accessibility for mobile device users. With a customizable dashboard that offers budgeting tools, the ability to transfer to members and non-members alike and deposit checks remotely, the new system will give you the tools you need to take control of your finances. Stay tuned to wecu.com and our newsletter for more information about this great product.
Saving –starting small
At WECU® we believe in empowering our members financially. A key component of financial independence and empowerment rests in establishing an emergency savings. Many of us have had to develop savings skills over time through trial and error and often people struggle to develop positive savings habits well into adulthood. As an educational credit union WECU® recognizes how important it is to establish a savings habit. Whether this means starting small by saving your change or teaching members about saving when they are small, acquiring strong financial habits is beneficial at any age or level.
Crowdfunding involves an online community through which individuals or organizations can appeal to the group to raise funds for their needs, causes or ventures. The difference between crowdfunding and person to person lending involves payback of the loan. Crowdfunding, the vast majority of the time, is most similar to a donation. Crowdfunding typically involves startups such as, but not limited to, artists, nonprofits or businesses. There are multiple crowdfunding sites, some specialize in certain types of projects and their policies vary.
Crowdfunding relies on the Internet’s ability to reach many interested parties to fund an entrepreneur’s goals. Some crowdfunding platforms return funds to the entrepreneur only when 100% of the funding goal is reached, while others will give partial funding to the donor/entrepreneur even if the funding goal is not met. Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GreenUnite and CircleUp are creating opportunities for inventors, artists and small businesses, even some in Whatcom County! Crowdfunding is an interesting example of people using the worldwide web as a supportive fiscal community; however, as with any purchase, it’s important to be careful who you give your financial information to.
*This article is intended for informational purposes only. Whatcom Educational Credit Union does not endorse any particular crowdfunding platforms, nor does it encourage WECU® members to invest in any. Any participation is strictly up to each individual.
The World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) supports worldwide Microfinance operations in a number of impoverished nations. WOCCU focuses on providing basic financial services and support to those in poverty. This support can come in the form of small start-up business loans, matched savings programs, basic financial education and free or very low cost financial services.
World Council is active in 15 international development projects ranging from Afghanistan and Bolivia, to Kenya and Uzbekistan. WOCCU’s matched savings program focuses on helping those in poverty realize their savings goals and eventually open savings accounts. Savers establish a savings goal and commit to regular monthly deposits, they are then matched with donors through the World Council of Credit Union’s website for the campaign matchsavings.org who choose to support savers based on their savings goals.
The WOCCU website features savers and givers, showing the stories for both the savers goals and the motivation behind the gifts of the givers. The WOCCU accepts donations online in support of microfinance and the credit union movement at woccu.org/give. Contributions to the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) are used primarily for the development/microfinance projects determined by WOCCU to be most in need.
Kiva is a nonprofit, internet lending facilitator whose mission is to ‘connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.’ Kiva partners with local Microfinance Institutions to make small dollar loans to those in need. Kiva donors can visit Kiva.org to see pictures and stories of potential loan recipients. Donors can fund loans via Kiva for as little as $25 and receive repayment of the principle of their loaned funds as a part of the program. Visit kiva.org and see how you can help combat poverty through micro-lending.
*This article is intended for informational purposes only. Whatcom Educational Credit Union does not endorse the Kiva program, nor does it encourage WECU® members to invest in it. Any participation is strictly up to each individual.
Merchants to surcharge or not to surcharge
Did you know that after January 27th things could be changing at the checkout? In November 2012, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York preliminarily approved a proposed settlement agreement in the ‘In re payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation.’ The lawsuit, filed in 2005 on behalf of some seven million merchants, claimed that Visa, MasterCard and a number of banks had collaborated to increase the price of credit card transactions.As part of this settlement, Visa is required to implement certain Visa International Operating Regulation rule changes, including the ability for merchants in the U.S. and U.S. territories to surcharge certain credit card transactions beginning January 27, 2013.
Once the rule changes take place, merchants who choose to surcharge will have to follow certain requirements. The surcharge may only be applied to credit cards -retailers may not fee people for using debit or prepaid cards. The surcharge may not exceed 4% of the transaction cost and merchants are required to display the surcharge fee on receipts. Merchants who decide to impose a surcharge must notify customers prior to their purchase through signage on the entrance doors, at the point of sale, or for online merchants -on the first page of their website which contains credit card logos.
Ramifications of the settlement may not be as far reaching as originally anticipated. There is a clause in the agreement that requires merchants who choose to surcharge Visa or MasterCard customers to apply the same surcharge to American Express transactions. However, American Express requires merchants to treat every form of electronic payment in the same manner, meaning that any surcharges applied would have to include debit card transactions –something that both Visa and MasterCard prohibit. This puts merchants who accept Visa and MasterCard and American Express in a difficult position, effectively barring the ability of many merchants to adopt a surcharge fee.
It’s a New Year, is it time for a new budget?
Many of us set goals or resolutions at the start of a new year. Have you set financial resolutions this year? As a WECU® member you have access to free financial counseling through BALANCE. One common misconception I’ve run into is that you have to be in trouble to need financial counseling –this couldn’t be further from the truth. The financial counselors at BALANCE can help you set savings goals, trim and tweak your budget, review your credit or get you on track to purchase a home. Don’t wait until you’re in over your head to utilize this free service, BALANCE can be a great resource to help you set your financial goals for the year ahead. As a WECU® member we are invested in your financial success, call 1.888.456.2227 for free financial counseling and start 2013 off right.
Do Good and Feel Good this Holiday Season
The holidays can be a hectic time for many of us. Between frantically shopping for last minute presents, attending holiday events and hosting get-togethers, it can be busy and stressful time of year. That being said, it’s also an important time of year to remember the power of kindness.
When I say kindness I don’t mean charitable giving. I know that many WECU® members regularly give to various charitable organizations as well as seasonal drives -as a group, your charity and community contributions never cease to amaze me.
The kindness I’m talking about is measured not in dollars but in small actions and meaningful smiles. It manifests as patience and consideration; a door held open for another, a helping hand for a neighbor in need. This year while everyone is rushing about in a haze of too much to do and too little time to do it, remember that kindness is a currency that is often underrated but always repaid with interest. I wish you and yours the best this holiday season.
May the memories you make this year be filled with happiness, kindness and love.
This year WECU® made a record donation of $65,006 to the United Way of Whatcom County. This total was made possible through generous donations from 172 WECU® employees and a corporate gift of $10,000. We were also proud to donate a part time staff member to United Way to act as a Campaign Executive for other community campaigns. I’m proud of what WECU® does as a group to support the good that United Way does in Whatcom County.
Why doesn't WECU offer airline miles on credit cards?
We offer 1% cash back rather than airline miles because it’s a reward that benefits all of our members. While we do receive inquiries about airline miles, not all of our members transact enough on their cards to earn a useful amount of airline miles. Our 1% cash back rebate is a flexible benefit that is useful on a number of different levels. If you’re carrying a balance on your VISA it will reduce your balance. If you’ve paid your card off you can use put that credit toward any purchase –including airfare! Whether it’s a big purchase, a reduction of your balance or just a small treat, our 1% cash back rebate benefits everyone. We believe that this rebate is the best way for us to give back to ALL of our credit card holders.
The border crossings, freeways, streets and stores were filled with Canadian shoppers this past holiday weekend, they joined many Americans in their quest for bargains -it was a shopping frenzy. All this shopping is great for our local merchants and generates jobs, tax revenue and, hopefully, profits which will allow these stores to thrive in the months and years ahead. Bellingham and Whatcom County would not have all the restaurants and stores we have without Canadian shoppers. When the Canadian shoppers go back North they will tell their friends, relatives and co-workers what a great place Bellingham and the United States is to shop. Prices for goods are cheaper here than in Canada and for that we can be thankful!
Gratitude is the Attitude for Thanksgiving!
“Gratitude is an opener of locked-up blessings.” ~Marianne Williamson
WECU® is closed for the Thanksgiving holiday. Thanksgiving is traditionally a holiday where we take time out to appreciate and celebrate what we have in life, a time to spend with those we love and treasure. Before you celebrate this year take a few minutes to think about the original Thanksgiving, which was a celebration of a successful harvest after a year of sickness and scarcity. Thanksgiving is the perfect day to give thanks for all you have even in difficult times. It is a great time for everyone to DO GOOD, to take a moment to be grateful and to FEEL GOOD about all that we have and those we are lucky enough to celebrate with.
Save Paper With E-Statements!
Recently, plastic bags for groceries were outlawed in Bellingham. This was a controversial rule with the purpose of reducing pollution. You can help WECU® reduce our use of paper and reduce pollution by signing up for E-Statements. This will help the environment, provide you with more financial security and save WECU® a ton of money. WECU's postage bill is over $500,000 a year with most of it used to mail statements. By helping WECU® reduce expenses you will help us with our quest to continue to provide low cost financial services to you, our members.
Meridian Center –the former Value Village Building
On July 22, 2010, WECU® purchased the old Value Village building on the Guide Meridian for $2,050,000. We leased the building back to Value Village until they moved into their new facility across the street. We are now in the process of remodeling the building to house our back office operations team. We expect the remodel process to be completed by the end of summer 2013. The new Meridian Center will be a non cash facility and will house approximately 85 of WECU’s 280 employees, freeing up space in our Holly Main Office for staff whose primary function is to serve our membership in person.
Number One in Local Real Estate Lending for September!
Congratulations are again in order for WECU's Real Estate Lending staff! They continue to do a phenomenal job serving our members and community. In September, WECU® was the number one real estate lender in Whatcom County, funding 148 loans for $28,137,715.00. That’s 38 more loans and $6.6 million more dollars than our closest local competitor! Thank you to our exceptional Real Estate team for all that they do for our members and to keep WECU® strong and successful!
Identity Theft Products
There are a number of products and services in the market place offering protection from identity theft. While there are certainly legitimate businesses offering protection against identity theft, there are other groups manipulating public fear to push products that may or may not truly provide a benefit. Most identity theft products alert you to activity on your credit report –something you can check directly for free each year using annualcreditreport.com. Other identity theft products assist with recovery after facing identity theft, something WECU® can and will assist you with free.
Be extremely careful who you give out information to, while there are dozens of legitimate fraud prevention services, there are also scammers hoping to capitalize on the public fear regarding identity theft. The best tools you have to prevent fraud are often free. Stay tuned to wecu.com and our monthly newsletter to read about current fraud trends. Be vigilant about who you give your financial information to. Keep track of the information on your credit report. But most importantly -if you need assistance call WECU®, our staff are here to help!
Demolition of Shangri La Motel
WECU® recently purchased the Shangri La Motel, which is located across the street from our main office on Holly St. Due to the building’s extremely poor condition, it would not have been cost effective to remodel it. Therefore, it is being demolished today (9/24/12) with the intent of adding parking for our employees.
WECU and Financial Education
WECU® has been working with Western Washington University for the last 3 years on a summer program to increase financial education in our community. As a part of this project WECU® covered the full cost to have Western Washington University’s Center for Economic and Financial Education train local teachers in new, relevant financial education curriculum for their class rooms. The program included one day of training for elementary teachers, and one for middle school and high school educators.
Teachers fulfilling the continuing education requirements satisfied by the program were treated to breakfast and lunch along with presentations from local teachers who had already implemented financial education in their classrooms. Representatives from WECU® also shared their credit, lending, identity theft and fraud related expertise with the group.
Over 80 dedicated local teachers received free curriculum covering a variety of subjects including trustworthiness, opportunity cost, compounding interest, and budgeting. As the financial sector continues to change rapidly and saving for retirement becomes more of an individual burden, financial education will only become more critical. WECU’s goal is to support a new generation of financially stable, empowered and happy adults!
Do Good, Feel Good
If you’ve been out and about in Whatcom County this summer you may have bumped into one of our staff in their bright blue Do Good, Feel Good shirts. It makes me happy to see all of the blue WECU® shirts around town on Fridays –interacting with folks in the grocery store, chatting with members on the teller lines. I receive a lot of questions about the Do Good, Feel Good campaign when I’m wearing my blue shirt. In a nutshell, Do Good, Feel Good means putting members first; it means giving back to the community, and making the time in our everyday interactions to treat others with respect, patience and appreciation.
Do Good, Feel Good is a philosophy grounded in the heart of the credit union movement –a movement where the simple concept of neighbors helping neighbors evolved into the creation of strong, community-focused financial cooperatives.
Another aspect of this promotion is that some of our staff have been out in Whatcom County surprising friends, neighbors and strangers with random acts of kindness. It never ceases to amaze me how powerful a random act of kindness can become. It is a moving experience to hear staff report how their efforts around Whatcom County have been received.
I’m proud of the creative and kind ideas WECU® employees have come up with to positively affect the lives and moods of so many in Whatcom County this summer. I invite you to join us in our Do Good, Feel Good campaign this summer and create your own random acts of kindness –I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how fulfilling of an experience it can be.
Many of us have had to learn about budgeting and saving through trial and error. Creating a savings habit can be hard to do, especially if it's not something you grow up doing. While schools are now starting to tackle financial education, there are many adults out there still struggling to make sense of their own finances. I believe in the importance of being frugal, in making difficult choices about whether it is necessary to have something small in the moment or forego it for a larger benefit down the road. It's through examination of our day to day financial choices that we can begin to take control of our finances.
The good news is that you don't have to go it alone. We have partners like Balance© to help you build budgets and savings plans and products like Save the Difference that make it easy to build a savings account. Whether you're making a plan to get out of debt, creating an emergency savings or planning to buy your first home WECU® is here to help you achieve your financial goals.
Representatives Buys and Overstreet Visit WECU
On Tuesday, July 24th, 2012 Representatives Jason Overstreet and Vincent Buys and a representative from the Northwest Credit Union Association(NWCUA)-Mark Minickiello, visited WECU®. Jason, Mark and Vincent were greeted by WECU® Board member Bruce Burpee, Supervisory Committee member Carol Lager, Board and Supervisory Committee member Harte Bressler and our senior management team. The group toured our main branch on Holly Street, meeting and visiting with staff along the way. During the visit the group discussed regulatory burden and the difference between banks and credit unions. We appreciate Representatives Overstreet and Buys and NWCUA Representative Minickiello taking the time to make a visit to WECU®.
Phone solicitation and unwanted mail
There’s nothing that ruins a family dinner like an untimely phone call from a solicitor. Are you tired of receiving phone calls from solicitors? It’s easy to add your phone number to the Do Not Call Registry, either call 1-888-382-1222 or visit ftc.gov/donotcall. You can also opt out of pre-screened credit offers in the mail; just call 1-888-567-8688 or visit optoutprescreen.com. And if you’re tired of receiving tons of different phone books, visit yellowpagesoptout.com.
WECU and the SAFE Act
To enhance consumer protection and reduce fraud, the Secure and Fair Enforcement of Mortgage Licensing Act of 2008 (SAFE Act) requires that all mortgage loan officers register on the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry (NMLS). Rest assured that WECU® is completely compliant with the SAFE Act, as all of our Real Estate loan officers are registered on the NMLS. If you work with mortgage loan officers at other financial institutions, please be aware that they should be registered as well. To verify that a mortgage loan officer is on the NMLS and authorized to originate a real estate loan, visit www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org
Milk Money Drive
This June our Milk Money Drive at Bellingham WECU® Branches raised $1,785.58, which was $1,000 over our initial goal. Donations from staff and WECU® members ranged in size from $1 to $200 and will help ensure community families have a supply of high quality fresh milk. The total amount raised is truly commendable and speaks to the generosity and kindness of our staff and membership. I am proud that we were able to make this donation on behalf of WECU® and our membership.
What Do Your Words Say About You?
Profanity has been in the news lately. One community on the East Coast is even considering levying a fine for use of profanity in public. Occasionally, members have outbursts in our lobbies or use inappropriate language when communicating with our staff. I believe that our employees do a good job handling these difficult situations. They are trained to remain patient and calm while giving upset members an opportunity to be heard. Occasionally, through understanding, consideration and problem solving, they are able to turn frustrated members into our biggest fans.
Unfortunately there are times when the line between profanity and verbal abuse is crossed and inappropriate behavior becomes a threat to our employees. In cases like this we send a letter warning the member that if they continue this behavior they may be expelled from the credit union. If the situation is serious enough, we may even expel the member for a first offense.
People seem to be using profanity more and more in their everyday life, but I don’t believe it has a place in a cooperative business like WECU® where we strive to treat both members and employees with patience and respect.
Running for Money and Getting Casual for a Cause!
In May, WECU’s Sweat Equity Team put together a group to participate in the Whatcom Volunteer Center’s Human Race. Twenty WECU® runners and walkers participated, raising over $1,300 in support of the Volunteer Center and its goal to bring volunteers and local organizations together to solve community challenges. Later on in June WECU® staff raised a total of $580 for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services of Whatcom County -DVSAS. To encourage donations during this fundraiser, staff who had donated $5 or more to DVSAS were allowed to wear jeans to work on Friday June 8th.
Purchase a 2-year old used car with less than 20,000 miles. The greatest depreciation occurs within the first two years. Let someone else pay for the depreciation. Most vehicles have manufacturers’ guarantees for at least 36,000 miles. This allows you to use the car for at least another year before you have to be concerned about repairs.
Living the American Dream
Now is a wonderful time to buy a home. Prices are low and interest rates are at record lows. If you take out a 15 year mortgage and never refinance it, you will own the home in 15 years and have the security of owning your home without being concerned about payments for the rest of your life. How old are you now? Imagine owning your home free and clear in 15 years. This is truly the “American Dream.”
Member Suggestions -Envelopes
We receive a number of suggestions from our members both in person and through our suggestion boxes. While we can’t always make the suggested changes, often times they point us in the right direction for future adjustments. We recently received a member comment suggesting that we allow recipients of paper VISA statements to opt out of receiving envelopes with their statements. Our statement stuffing process is automated –opting out a list of statement recipients would add manual labor to the process as each would have to be removed by hand.
E-Statements are a great option for our members that want to save paper; even those who like to retain paper copies can simply print their statement at home when they need it for records. Having your statement delivered electronically eliminates both the enclosed envelope and the one the statement is mailed in. Perhaps as technology improves over time we may end up having more options for removing envelopes from the statement printing/packaging process.
Keeping it Simple
Whether you’ve been a WECU® member for weeks or years there’s one thing I hope you notice about our credit union –we do our best to keep things simple. Why offer 50 different types of checking accounts when you can offer one basic, straight-forward account that does it all? Why make credit cards any more difficult to deal with than they already are? At WECU® our products are basic; our fees are reasonable and frequently lower than the industry standard. We found that when it comes to our membership complex doesn’t necessarily mean better, that a trendy product may not always be the best fit. I believe that if you do something well the first time you won’t have to recreate the wheel every few years. If there’s one thing that I’ve found over my years at WECU® it’s that great products and straightforward services will stand the test of time.
Most of us learn our financial lessons (good or bad) from our parents. Every day WECU® loan officers help parents open savings accounts for their children. Children opening their first savings accounts are given their very own banks, kicking off what we hope will be a lifelong saving habit and hopefully the start to a history of smart financial decisions.
More and more we’re noticing educators who are taking a positive step in the right direction by bringing financial education into their classrooms. Whether you’re a parent, or educator we support your financial education efforts. WECU® staff visit classrooms and host tours for students who are learning to make smart financial decisions. WECU® sponsors financial training opportunities for educators in partnership with WWU. And most importantly, we are here to help your young savers meet their saving goals and answer any financial questions they or you might have.
At WECU® we believe that financial education is the foundation to empowerment. It is our hope that the relationships we build with young savers will last for a lifetime –a successful and fulfilling lifetime.
Number One in Real Estate Lending
According to TC Trends Reports from Data Data Inc., WECU® was the number one real estate lender in Whatcom County in both number of loans and dollar amount of loans funded during the month of March 2012. WECU® funded 124 residential real estate loans for over $23.3 million. WECU® was also the number one lender in Whatcom County when it came to real estate purchase transactions. WECU® funded 20 purchase loan transactions for over $4.6 million during the month of March 2012. At WECU®, our mission is simple – provide the means for members to achieve their dreams. We’re thrilled to be the number one real estate lender in Whatcom County.
WECU® recently received notification from Weiss Ratings that we have continued to maintain our "A" rating for financial strength in the first quarter of 2012. Weiss is the nation's leading independent provider of ratings for various financial services providers and they evaluate over 19,000 institutions each quarter. WECU® is one of only 2% of the nation’s credit unions who meet Weiss Ratings' criteria for exceptional financial strength. We are pleased to receive this continued exceptional rating. For more information on Weiss visit www.weissratings.com
A personal note from Wayne
As you may already know, at the end of March my son Jim Langei, and his wife Sterling Taylor passed away in a fire at Squalicum Harbor. A Northwest Credit Union Association article about Jim is linked below. This has been a very difficult time for our family and losing a child is truly a terrible thing at any age. I am so fortunate to have a capable Senior Management team who continued to run business as usual while I took some much needed time off.
Jim worked in our Business Services Department as a business loan officer. Jim's manager, Kent Bouma, has redistributed his workload to assure that his members will be well taken care of by his co-workers. I am so proud of how everyone at WECU® has pulled together in support of both our family and the Business Services team.
The outpouring of love and support that my family and WECU® have received from our community has been incredible. Thank you for your prayers, love and support.
The Keys to Success at WECU
WECU® is a strong credit union. We continue to outshine our peers in loan, asset, and deposit growth, and we maintain a significantly higher net worth ratio than our peer average to assure that we remain strong during difficult economic times.
We believe that the secret to our success as a credit union lies in our ability to embrace our unique role in our community. Over time WECU® has carved out an advantageous niche in our unique and vibrant community; more than 25% of Whatcom County residents are members of WECU®, a metric that most credit unions are unable to match. We continue to adhere to our original core values regarding how we contribute to our community, how we treat our members and employees and how we conduct business.
We encourage the concept of a WECU® family of employees working together to further the credit union mission. WECU® has a much higher ratio of employees to members in comparison to our credit union peers. We believe that this coupled with our family philosophy is reflected in how we treat our members and our overall success as a financial institution.
WECU Rated 5 Stars by Bauer Financial
Bauer Financial, an independent source of credit union and bank ratings, has given WECU® a "Superior Performance" rating of 5 stars for the year ending 2011. Bauer assigns star ratings based on an unbiased and complex review of an institution's financial position. Many factors are considered when calculating a star rating, including: capital, asset quality, losses, historical trends, and many other safety and soundness metrics. WECU® is proud to remain a safe and sound institution for our members.
Automated Check Clearing
As you may have noticed in the past few years there has been a fairly large shift away from processing paper checks. Many merchants and businesses have shifted to processing checks through automated means as it is cheaper, more efficient and they are credited for these items much faster.
What does this mean for WECU® members? When checks are converted to ACH (automated files) WECU® does not receive an image of the check. To get a copy of these items you must contact the merchant who originally processed the check. WECU® can help you determine if a check was cleared through your account as an automated file. Here are several automated processes through which checks may be converted to ACH:
When a check is presented at the checkout/Point-Of-Purchase and the merchant runs the check through the register to capture the account information. The customer then signs an authorization for the transaction, and the checker gives them back their paper check. The merchant is required to keep a copy of the signed authorization on file for at least 2 years from the settlement date. The customer should keep the paper check on file until it has accurately cleared their account.
Accounts Receivable Entry (ARC)
When a check is put into a drop box, mailed in, or dropped off at a manned location to pay a bill. The Merchant is required to keep the physical check for 2 years from the settlement date.
Back Office Conversion (BOC)
Check is presented at the checkout/Point-Of-Purchase (register) and then converted to an ACH file during back-office processing. The merchant is required to keep the physical check for 2 years from the settlement date.
Re-Presented Check Entry (RCK)
Sometimes when a check is returned to a business they may attempt to rerun "insufficient funds" or "uncollected funds" checks electronically to collect the funds. These checks were initially processed as a paper check but when rerun are converted to an ACH check. Merchant/Business is required to keep the physical check for 7 years from settlement date.
Returned Check Fees
Merchants or businesses can also collect fees for returned/insufficient fund checks or ACHs electronically if they have provided prior notice to the customer.
If you feel a check that was processed electronically has cleared for an inaccurate amount, contact the merchant or business and request a copy. Merchants and businesses must keep these checks in a secure location for at least 2 years from the settlement date. The only exception would be if a check was processed as a POP item; the business/merchant will have a copy of the signed authorization on file but the customer is responsible for retaining the actual paper check from the original transaction.
If you are unable to obtain a check copy WECU® can contact the businesses/merchant's financial institution on your behalf. Unfortunately the check copy request process can take up to 2 weeks and effective May 1st, WECU® will charge $15 per copy associated with the service because of the amount of work that goes into processing such requests.
While we're happy to assist you with the process of requesting a check copy, often times it will prove more expedient for you to work directly with the merchant in question. That being said, WECU® will always be available as a great resource to help walk you through the process and your electronic processing questions.
As you may have noted the last time you visited one of our lobbies, lately our tellers have been offering $1 coins to our members. From February 13th through March 9th WECU® tellers surveyed members, offering the dollar coins for cash back transactions. During this time period, 1118 members said ‘yes’ to the dollar coins and 2990 members said ‘no thank you’ to the dollar coins.
According to the US Government Accountability Office, all major Western economies now use a coin at the ‘dollar level.’ As dollar coins last longer and thus have lower processing costs, implementing use of coins versus paper dollars nationwide could help our government save more than $5.5 billion over 30 years.* Due to the potential national benefit of dollar coins and the interest generated during this brief survey we will continue to have dollar coins available to members at each branch.
*According to a March 2011 report by the US Government Accountability Office, visit www.gao.gov for the full report.
Congressman Rick Larsen Visits WECU
On Tuesday, March 13, 2012 Congressman Rick Larsen and Whatcom County Liaison David Westbrook visited WECU®. Congressman Larsen toured our main branch and the Business and Home Loan Center (BHLC) on Holly Street, meeting and visiting with a number of staff along the way. During Larsen's visit the congressman and WECU® staff discussed our green building program, recent membership growth, and WECU's business lending portfolio and plans.
Larsen's focus during his visit was jobs and job growth, and he was particularly impressed with what WECU® is doing with our business lending and how that will become a big focus for WECU's future. While visiting with the staff in the BHLC Larsen stated; "I am very glad to be here today to learn more about the important role that credit unions play in our communities- plus I love your free ATMs!"
Silver LEED Certification for Sunset
WECU’s Sunset Branch was recently awarded Silver level LEED certification. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. LEED gives building owners and operators the tools they need to have an immediate and measurable impact on their buildings’ performance. The end result of implementing LEED™ design requirements is a building approximately 35% more energy efficient than one constructed using conventional building practices.
Phone Outages on 2-21
On Tuesday, February 21st we experienced a disruption to our phone system that resulted in a number of dropped calls in our Call Center. Apparently a car struck a phone pedestal somewhere between our Holly office and the Qwest Central Office, damaging the lines that connect to our Call Center. WECU® worked with Qwest and our phone system provider to route phone calls through a different hub to restore service to the Call Center. Qwest has since repaired the damaged equipment and we are working with our phone provider to assure that we continue to provide uninterrupted service.
IRS Releases the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2012
I recently received the following article from the Northwest Credit Union Association newsletter The Anthem which contains important information about Tax Scams. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued its annual “Dirty Dozen” ranking of tax scams, reminding taxpayers to use caution during tax season to protect themselves against a wide range of schemes ranging from identity theft to return preparer fraud.
The Dirty Dozen listing, compiled annually by the IRS, lists a variety of common scams taxpayers can encounter at any point during the year. But many of these schemes peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns. “Taxpayers should be careful and avoid falling into a trap with the Dirty Dozen,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “Scam artists will tempt people in person, online and by e-mail with misleading promises about lost refunds and free money. Don’t be fooled by these scams.” Illegal scams can lead to significant penalties and interest and possible criminal prosecution. The IRS Criminal Investigation Division works closely with the Department of Justice to shut down scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.
The following are the Dirty Dozen tax scams for 2012:
- Identity Theft: Topping this year’s list is identity theft. In response to growing identity theft concerns, the IRS has embarked on a comprehensive strategy that is focused on preventing, detecting and resolving identity theft cases as soon as possible. In addition to the law-enforcement crackdown, the IRS has stepped up its internal reviews to spot false tax returns before tax refunds are issued as well as working to help victims of the identity theft refund schemes. The IRS is increasingly seeing identity thieves looking for ways to use a legitimate taxpayer’s identity and personal information to file a tax return and claim a fraudulent refund. An IRS notice informing a taxpayer that more than one return was filed in the taxpayer’s name or that the taxpayer received wages from an unknown employer may be the first clue that an individual has been victimized. The IRS has a robust screening process with measures in place to stop fraudulent returns. While the IRS is continuing to address tax-related identity theft aggressively, the agency is also seeing an increase in identity crimes, including more complex schemes. In 2011, the IRS protected more than $1.4 billion of taxpayer funds from getting into the wrong hands due to identity theft. In January, the IRS announced the results of a massive, national sweep cracking down on suspected identity theft perpetrators as part of a stepped-up effort against refund fraud and identity theft. Working with the Justice Department’s Tax Division and local U.S. Attorneys’ offices, the nationwide effort targeted 105 people in 23 states. Anyone who believes his or her personal information has been stolen and used for tax purposes should immediately contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit.
- Phishing: Phishing is a scam typically carried out with the help of unsolicited email or a fake website that poses as a legitimate site to lure in potential victims and prompt them to provide valuable personal and financial information. Armed with this information, a criminal can commit identity theft or financial theft. Unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), should be reported by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org. It is important to keep in mind the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS has information that can help consumers protect themselves from email scams.
- Return Preparer Fraud: About 60 percent of taxpayers will use tax professionals this year to prepare and file their tax returns. Most return preparers provide honest service to their clients. But as in any other business, there are also some who prey on unsuspecting consumers. Questionable return preparers have been known to skim off their clients’ refunds, charge inflated fees for return preparation services and attract new clients by promising guaranteed or inflated refunds. Taxpayers should choose carefully when hiring a tax preparer. Federal courts have issued hundreds of injunctions ordering individuals to cease preparing returns, and the Department of Justice has pending complaints against many others. In 2012, every paid preparer needs to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and must enter it on the returns he or she prepares. Signals to watch for when you are dealing with an unscrupulous return preparer include:
- Failure to sign the return or include a PTIN.
- Failure to provide a copy of the tax return.
- Promise or a larger than normal tax refund.
- Charging a percentage of the refund amount as preparation fee.
- Requiring taxpayer to split the refund to pay the preparation fee.
- Adding forms to the return the taxpayer has never filed before.
- Encouraging the taxpayer to place false information on the return, such as false income, expenses and/or credits.
- Hiding Income Offshore: Over the years, numerous individuals have been identified as evading U.S. taxes by hiding income in offshore banks, brokerage accounts or nominee entities, using debit cards, credit cards or wire transfers to access the funds. Others have employed foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities or insurance plans for the same purpose. The IRS uses information gained from its investigations to pursue taxpayers with undeclared accounts, as well as the banks and bankers suspected of helping clients hide their assets overseas. The IRS works closely with the Department of Justice to prosecute tax evasion cases. While there are legitimate reasons for maintaining financial accounts abroad, there are reporting requirements that need to be fulfilled. U.S. taxpayers who maintain such accounts and who do not comply with reporting and disclosure requirements are breaking the law and risk significant penalties and fines, as well as the possibility of criminal prosecution. Since 2009, 30,000 individuals have come forward voluntarily to disclose their foreign financial accounts, taking advantage of special opportunities to bring their money back into the U.S. tax system and resolve their tax obligations. And with new foreign account reporting requirements being phased in over the next few years, hiding income offshore will become increasingly difficult. At the beginning of this year, the IRS reopened the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) following continued interest from taxpayers and tax practitioners after the closure of the 2011 and 2009 programs. This program will be open for an indefinite period until otherwise announced. The IRS has collected $3.4 billion so far from people who participated in the 2009 offshore program, reflecting closures of about 95 percent of the cases from the 2009 program. On top of that, the IRS has collected an additional $1 billion from up-front payments required under the 2011 program. That number will grow as the IRS processes the 2011 cases.
- “Free Money” from the IRS & Tax Scams Involving Social Security: Flyers and advertisements for free money from the IRS, suggesting that the taxpayer can file a tax return with little or no documentation, have been appearing in community churches around the country. These schemes are also often spread by word of mouth as unsuspecting and well-intentioned people tell their friends and relatives. Scammers prey on low-income individuals and the elderly. They build false hopes and charge people good money for bad advice. In the end, the victims discover their claims are rejected. Meanwhile, the promoters are long gone. Scammers have also been known to lure the unsuspecting with promises of non-existent Social Security refunds or rebates. In a similar situation, a taxpayer may really be due a credit or refund but uses inflated information to complete the return. Intentional mistakes of this kind can result in a $5,000 penalty.
- False/Inflated Income and Expenses: Including income that was never earned, either as wages or as self-employment income in order to maximize refundable credits, is another popular scam, and one that could result in forced repayment the erroneous refunds, including interest and penalties, and in some cases, even prosecution. Additionally, some taxpayers are filing excessive claims for the fuel tax credit. Farmers and other taxpayers who use fuel for off-highway business purposes may be eligible for the fuel tax credit. But other individuals have claimed the tax credit when their occupations or income levels make the claims unreasonable. Fraud involving the fuel tax credit is considered a frivolous tax claim and can result in a penalty of $5,000.
- False Form 1099 Refund Claims: In this ongoing scam, the perpetrator files a fake information return, such as a Form 1099 Original Issue Discount (OID), to justify a false refund claim on a corresponding tax return. In some cases, individuals have made refund claims based on the bogus theory that the federal government maintains secret accounts for U.S. citizens and that taxpayers can gain access to the accounts by issuing 1099-OID forms to the IRS.
- Frivolous Arguments: Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. The IRS has a list of frivolous tax arguments that taxpayers should avoid. These arguments are false and have been legally dismissed in court. While taxpayers have the right to contest their tax liabilities in court, no one has the right to disobey the law.
- Falsely Claiming Zero Wages: Filing a phony information return is an illegal way to lower the amount of taxes an individual owes. Typically, a Form 4852 (Substitute Form W-2) or a “corrected” Form 1099 is used as a way to improperly reduce taxable income to zero. The taxpayer may also submit a statement rebutting wages and taxes reported by a payer to the IRS. Sometimes fraudsters even include an explanation on their Form 4852 that cites statutory language on the definition of wages or may include some reference to a paying company that refuses to issue a corrected Form W-2 for fear of IRS retaliation. Taxpayers should resist any temptation to participate in any variations of this scheme. Filing this type of return may result in a $5,000 penalty.
- Abuse of Charitable Organizations and Deductions: IRS examiners continue to uncover the intentional abuse of 501(c)(3) organizations, including arrangements that improperly shield income or assets from taxation and attempts by donors to maintain control over donated assets or the income from donated property. The IRS is investigating schemes that involve the donation of non-cash assets—including situations in which several organizations claim the full value of the same non-cash contribution. Often these donations are highly overvalued or the organization receiving the donation promises that the donor can repurchase the items later at a price set by the donor. The Pension Protection Act of 2006 imposed increased penalties for inaccurate appraisals and set new standards for qualified appraisals.
- Disguised Corporate Ownership: Third parties are improperly used to request employer identification numbers and form corporations that obscure the true ownership of the business. These entities can be used to under-report income, claim fictitious deductions, avoid filing tax returns, participate in listed transactions, and facilitate money laundering and financial crimes. The IRS is working with state authorities to identify these entities and bring the owners into compliance with the law.
- Misuse of Trusts: For years, unscrupulous promoters have urged taxpayers to transfer assets into trusts. While there are legitimate uses of trusts in tax and estate planning, some highly questionable transactions promise reduction of income subject to tax, deductions for personal expenses and reduced estate or gift taxes. Such trusts rarely deliver the tax benefits promised and are used primarily as a means of avoiding income tax liability and hiding assets from creditors, including the IRS.IRS personnel have seen an increase in the improper use of private annuity trusts and foreign trusts to shift income and deduct personal expenses. As with other arrangements, taxpayers should seek the advice of a trusted professional before entering a trust arrangement.
What are some of the primary differences between a bank and WECU?
- WECU® is a co-operative.
- WECU® is a nonprofit.
- WECU® does not generate profits for private shareholders.
- WECU® does not maximize profits with the objective to maximize the return to private shareholders.
2012 Annual Meeting
WECU’s 2012 Annual Meeting took place January 26th, 2012 in the ballroom of the Lakeway Inn. Volunteers Kristi Lewis Tyran who has served on WECU’s Board since 2006 and Phil Isle who has served since 1985 were both elected by acclamation to serve another 3 year term. Harte Bressler, who has served on WECU’s Supervisory Committee since 1996 and on the Board since 2011 was also elected by acclamation to serve another 3 years on both the Supervisory Committee and the Board.
446 WECU® members attended the annual meeting and dinner this year. Of those 446 members, 226 turned in event evaluations for the night. We received great ratings and suggestions from those 226 evaluations. On a scale of 1-5, 1 being poor and 5 being excellent, members rated the food and the service for the evening at 4.42, which is an excellent response for an event of this size and scale. We look forward to another successful meeting filled with great company and good food next year –hope to see you there!
You may have heard about Balance, a financial counseling service available for free to WECU® members. WECU® has contracted with Balance as a resource to help you with your finances. Balance provides credit counseling, budget review, basic financial planning, debt management, identity theft counseling and much more. While it’s important to have somewhere to turn when you’re in financial trouble, Balance can also be a very positive resource when things are going well. The counselors at Balance can help you develop a savings plan, tighten up or start a budget, plan for major purchases or even just answer the basic financial and credit questions you’ve always wondered about. Balance also recently introduced an online chat feature for those who prefer that to over the phone counseling. Whether you need help or you just want some advice on how to kick start your savings, Balance is free to you as a part of your membership at WECU® –visit www.balancepro.net to find out more.
Local Levies Expiring
We received the following information from the Bellingham School District today. Please keep this information in mind as we approach the February 14th levy election.
Voters will decide on replacing two expiring levies in the Feb. 14 election. Both levies are essential for the basic operation of Bellingham Public Schools. Our schools cannot rely on the federal and state government to adequately fund a high quality education for our local children.
These levies provide critical basic funding to help cover budget cuts and shortfalls from state and federal funding. They are not additional levies, but replace levies that expire in 2012. They pay for nearly 25 percent of education in Bellingham Public Schools as well as technology, which is not funded by the state.
Why are the levies needed? Local levies are no longer for enrichment only. They fund the basics of what the state and federal government do not provide. They support instruction, smaller class sizes, school bus transportation, safety and health, and technology for student learning. They also help cover expenses for full-time kindergarten, special education, Highly Capable Learners' program, English Language Learners' program, advanced placement courses, extra-curricular activities that benefit the whole child such as arts and athletics, and much more. The levies also help our schools attract and retain highly qualified and talented staff.
How can I vote? Voters within Bellingham Public Schools' attendance areas will receive a ballot in the mail after Jan. 28, 2012 to vote on two school levies that are expiring and need to be replaced.
Ballots must be postmarked and mailed or received at the city drop-box location by Feb. 14, 2012:
Whatcom County Courthouse
South Parking Lot, 201 Grand Ave.
Local support pays for nearly 25 percent of education in Bellingham Public Schools, impacting almost every aspect of teaching and learning. Locally funded, childhood education has one of the highest returns on investment by creating a skilled workforce, reducing crime and preventing dropouts.
Fraud and Scams
Everyday hundreds of scams take place and people all over the world are cheated out of their hard earned money. While we do our best to protect our members, ultimately the best rule of thumb you can follow is; if it sounds too good to be true it’s probably a scam.
At WECU® we have policies in place to prevent and reduce fraud. If we refuse to accept a check or place a hold on the funds we are doing this to make sure the check will clear so that we do not have to withdraw the funds from your account later. If someone gives you a check, you deposit it and it is later returned, you will ultimately be responsible for those funds. If you receive a check from someone you don’t know or trust, wait to spend the money in case you end up having to give it back.
Here are some questions to ask if you suspect a scam:
- Is the check from an item sold on the Internet such as a car, boat, or jewelry?
- Is the amount of the check more than the item’s selling price?
- Did you receive the check via overnight delivery?
- Is the check part of an email transaction/communication?
- Is the check drawn on a business or individual account different from the person buying your item/product?
- Have you been informed that you were the winner of a LOTTERY? Perhaps one located in Canada, Australia, El Gordo, El Mundo or Africa? One you never entered?
- Have you been instructed to WIRE, SEND or SHIP MONEY as soon as possible to a large U.S. city or another country such as Canada, England, Russia, the Netherlands or Nigeria?
- Have you been asked to PAY money to receive a deposit from another country such as Canada, England, Russia, the Netherlands or Nigeria?
- Are you receiving PAY or COMMISSION for facilitating money transfers through your account?
- Did you respond to an email requesting that you CONFIRM, UPDATE or PROVIDE your account information?
- Were you asked to wire money, or send a money order or check to someone you do not know or trust?
- Have you given out your debit or credit card information to someone not on your account?
Do not give out your account information, debit or credit card numbers over the phone, web or email unless you initiate the transaction. Be careful who you share your financial information with -it’s an unfortunate truth that some of our members have been victimized by those closest to them. If you do not know and trust someone do not wire them money, send them a check or a money order and be wary who you accept checks from.
If you are concerned that a check or transaction may be fraudulent or believe you have become a victim of a scam contact us at 360.676.1168.
Working at WECU
WECU® is a family and community oriented financial institution and these priorities are reflected in our hiring policies. We believe in hiring individuals who are invested in their community and who are as attached to Whatcom County as we are. We seek out qualified candidates who above all, understand the value of great service. During the interview process we ask applicants to discuss any volunteer activities or organizations they are involved with which demonstrate their connection to community. At WECU® we focus a great deal of effort and attention on our connection to our community and we do our best to hire individuals who understand and support that part of our mission. We seek out recommendations from current employees as a part of the hiring process. When an existing employee recommends an applicant we have an opportunity to find out from two different perspectives how attached the applicant is to our community. In our experience friends or relatives of current employees tend to make responsible employees who contribute a great deal to the credit union’s success. Additionally, employees who refer a friend or relative tend to become invested in that individual’s success at WECU®. We hope that both new and old employees will continue the practice of recommending friends and family who they trust and believe in for WECU® job openings. We believe that people who already have a history with WECU®, who understand and have used our products and services, make ideal WECU® employees. If you believe that you, a friend or family member would make a great addition to our team, encourage them to apply –we value recommendations from people we know and trust. For information on employment opportunities at WECU® stay tuned to our employment page: http://www.wecu.com/employment
WECU Giving Back
As you may or may not know, WECU® traditionally participates in the Salvation Army’s annual Angel Tree gift tag program. This year, in addition to helping collect an outstanding number of gifts for local children in need, we are also allowing the Salvation Army to use one of our buildings –the former Value Village building at 3990 Meridian, as a distribution center for the Angel Tree program. While Salvation Army will be using our site for distribution, should you need to drop off Angel Tree gifts after the program cut off please visit the Salvation Army’s office at 2912 Northwest Avenue, which is open from 8:00am-3:00pm Monday through Friday. In addition to the Salvation Army group, we allowed the 3rd Annual Whatcom Give-a-thon to use the space for their event, which took place on December 2nd and raised funds for over 50 nonprofits.
As a community-based financial institution, WECU® has always put an emphasis on providing exceptional member service along with offering affordable products. Needless to say, we were pleased to see a recent report published by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) that shows consumers across the country are "more satisfied than ever before" with credit unions. WECU® is proud to be part of a service-oriented industry that has attained the highest score ever reached by any of ASCI's 47 industries. Click here to read the press release about the report.
WECU and Membership Growth
We’ve experienced some serious membership growth this fall. In September, October and November of 2010 we were opening an average of 575 new accounts each month and at the end of November 2010 we had reached 63,934 members. This year in September we opened 863 new accounts, 985 in October and in 828 November and we now have 65,758 members -our lobbies have been pretty busy! In November of 2010 our membership made up 25.1% of Whatcom County’s 202,714 residents. This November Whatcom County has 206,541 residents and 25.6% of that population has an account at WECU®. WECU® continues to grow and we hope that as valued members you will continue to recommend us to friends, family and neighbors.
WECU Shred Day
Shredding sensitive documents helps prevent fraud and identity theft. Having a personal shredder at home can be a very smart investment, but it’s also nice to do a large document ‘purge’ if your stored files have gotten out of hand. Twice a year WECU® offers a free shred day for our members to help them get rid of outdated, sensitive documents. This event is quite popular and we have had to limit the amount of shred members can bring to assure that we do not fill the shred truck in the allotted time. This past October we shredded and recycled the paper equivalent of fourteen 100 foot tall trees! Our shred days take place in April and October from 10am until 1pm in the parking lot of our main branch on Holly Street. Keep an eye out for our April shred day, and consider putting a personal shredder on your holiday wish list this year!
Bellingham and Lummi Island Featured in PBS Short Film
Several Bellingham and Lummi Island businesses and Sustainable Connections were recently featured in a PBS video called "Fixing the Future." WECU® is proud to be a part of Sustainable Connections and to support our community. Click here to view the film.
WECU’s network of 16 ATMs in Whatcom County are all surcharge free and strategically placed to provide you key access to your funds. We monitor the activity of our ATMs to assure they are located in areas where they will receive the most use.
We recently made required compliance upgrades to the software on several of our ATMs to improve the transaction interface. In addition we recently replaced several of our older machines to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as the machines were too old to be upgraded with the required changes. Later this year we will also replace the machines located at Bellingham Technical College, our Lynden branch, and our main branch on Holly Street. In addition we will be adding a new ATM outside Miller Hall at Western Washington University. We removed the popular machine that was there previously when Western began construction in the area. We plan to replace that machine with a new ATM in the same location later this fall. We have already completed installation of a new ATM to replace our older machine in Viking Union. The Viking Union machine is already up and running for students and faculty to use and when installation of the Miller Hall ATM is complete we will have two no-surcharge ATM locations on campus.
The new ADA compliant ATMs also come equipped with anti-skimming card readers to prevent skim fraud. You’ll notice that the card reader on these new machines will grab your card and slowly draw it into the machine. Don’t force the card reader, this function takes place to prevent insertion of skimming devices and is there to safe guard you!
WECU in the Community
You may have noticed a number of WECU® folks out volunteering in our community this year. Clad in our Sweat Equity Team’s signature navy and silver t-shirts, WECU® staff have helped out with a number of Whatcom County events. From clearing local trails to assisting with Project Homeless Connect in Bellingham, setting up for local charity benefits and auctions, powering through a number of fundraiser 5K races and showing off their sports skills at a charitable bocce ball tournament, the Sweat Equity Team (or SET as we like to call it) has been a very busy group. As a new committee in 2011, SET has been instrumental in recruiting staff from all over the credit union to volunteer in support of or as a part of local events. At WECU® we believe that it is vitally important that community businesses lend their support to charitable organizations and events in tangible ways. Whether through donations to community nonprofit organizations or volunteer involvement, WECU® supports our community and the groups that keep it strong.
Our Senior Picnic was held on Monday, August 1st, from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm in the multi-purpose room at Bloedel Donovan Park in Bellingham. We hold this event to honor our members who are 65 years or older and those who have had their accounts for more than 20 years. We had 236 of these very special members in attendance. These long-term and senior members have been instrumental in the success of WECU® and this is our way of thanking them for their part in our success. The event gives the members an opportunity to talk to staff and board members in attendance. Another highlight is that members attending have the opportunity to see and talk with people they may have worked with or associated with in the past. Finally, it helps members meet other members and develop relationships over a fun summer picnic meal.This year we ran a double sided buffet line with catering from Boss Tweed. Attendees were thrilled with the food quality, the lines moved quickly, and it was one of the best picnics we have had.
ATM Conversions and Upgrades
We are currently in the process of converting our ATMs to a new processing network. Though we have had some difficulty getting our machines back online during the conversion it is our hope that this new processing network will provide us with improved service time and control over our ATMs once the project is complete. While we have experienced some difficulty this week converting the deposit taking ATM at Sunset and the learning curve with new technology can often be difficult, we believe that it is worth the long term benefits to our membership. As of Thursday morning, we have been able to get the withdrawal feature functioning on the Sunset ATM. However, we are still making adjustments to the deposit feature. This August we will begin an additional conversion to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant ATM machines. These new machines will meet ADA height requirements, and have braille instructions as well as additional components to allow voice guidance for the vision-impaired. In addition to the ADA improvements the new machines will have the latest in security hardware, color screens and increased capacity so that they do not run out of cash as frequently. The Ferndale branch will also be upgraded to a deposit taking ATM later this year, receiving new check imaging hardware. At WECU® we work hard to meet your needs whether through face to face service or the latest technology. As the banking world continues to evolve we have to make the necessary technological changes to keep pace. While sometimes those changes and upgrades can mean making big or difficult adjustments to our existing programs or machines, the end result will be improved services for you, our membership. We thank you for your patience as we continue these ATM processing changes.
A new and improved homepage
Recently, you may have noticed that the WECU® homepage got a fresh, new look. At WECU® we are constantly striving to improve our products and services so that they meet the needs of our members. With the new look, members will enjoy greater organization along with an easier and faster way to find the things they need. We have attempted to reduce the clutter but left the most commonly used links on the main page for your convenience. In addition, we have reorganized the drop down menus at the top of all of the pages. The new menus are organized based on your general needs. For example, if you are looking for our involvement in the community, whether it is via donations or our nonprofit spotlight, you would go to the community menu. Looking for our business products and services? Check out the business menu. We have also added an alerts menu where you can find information about the latest fraud alerts, Visa card country blocks, holiday closures, etc. Our ultimate goal for www.wecu.com is to get members where they want to go without the frustration of feeling lost. So, we hope you enjoy our new homepage and find it a great resource to get the information you need and to access your WECU® account.
Gateway Pacific Terminal
WECU® has not made a decision to support or not to support the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point. Management and the Board of Directors have not formally discussed the topic. WECU® has 65,000 members with many different political views on almost everything. WECU® strives not to take a political stand on issues that do not directly pertain to our business model. Like many of our members, we will be monitoring the discussions that are taking place and will evaluate the data and reports as they become available.
New Temporary Insurance Details
The NCUA has approved temporary unlimited share insurance for non-interest-bearing transaction accounts, effective June 24th, 2011 through December 31, 2012.
The new insurance applies to WECU’s S7 and S8 checking accounts -money market and check plus checking accounts are interest earning accounts and do not qualify for the coverage. The new temporary insurance is an addition to the existing NCUA general share insurance of $250,000 and has no coverage limit. With the new temporary insurance you are covered whether you have $5 in your S7 or S8 checking account or $500,000.
Mint.com and Other Third Party Personal Financial Management Tools
Members often ask us about third party Personal Financial Management tools (PFMs) – most typically Mint.com. Currently WECU® members CAN use Mint.com; however, we have not actively marketed the service to our membership as the site does not consistently sync up with our accounts accurately. WECU® does not have control over how or if Mint.com or similar sites sync up with our members’ accounts; control remains in the hands of these vendors. However, it is important to note that we are not blocking member access to these sites.
When you sign up to access a third party PFM you will be asked for sensitive account information – from account numbers and passwords to Multi-Factor Authentication answers. Please keep in mind that when you volunteer this information you become responsible for any losses that result from giving it out. WECU® cannot monitor what happens to your information when you input it at a non-affiliated, third party website, nor can we handle the programming aspect of Mint.com or similar sites that allows them to connect to your information.
Mint.com prioritizes programming changes according to the number of requests they receive to accommodate user groups. It is important to note that while we may have a large number of WECU® members requesting access to Mint.com via their site, they also work with much larger financial institutions nationwide, and our group may not be very large in comparison to some other user groups. Therefore, it makes sense that they choose to prioritize programming on a national level for the huge institutions rather than smaller institutions.
As Mint.com and other PFM tools continue to change and evolve, we expect that access to these services will improve as well. Intuit Inc™, the company that owns Quicken™, owns Mint.com, and as they continue to integrate Mint.com with Quicken™ products it will also likely improve our member interface which is compatible with Quicken™ and QuickBooks™.
If you choose to use Mint.com here are some troubleshooting tips regarding the service. Some tips for successful integration:
• Search for WECU® or Whatcom not Whatcom Educational Credit Union.
• Use your 4 to 6 digit member number. Do not include S or L types. Do not use debit or VISA numbers.
• Mint.com will ask for a security question. This is being pulled directly from WECU®’s E-Max site. Since WECU® randomly asks 4 different questions, Mint.com may have connection issues. A quick fix for this is to click on ‘Your Accounts’ and update each account individually. If Mint.com requires a new answer to the MFA question it should ask it at that time. This should be done at the beginning of every session with Mint.com.
• Account updates are not always accurate. A change on E-Max may take several hours to show on Mint.com even if they say they are updated.
• If you use E-Max to personalize your account names you will be able to easily differentiate between account and sub accounts on Mint.com. Example: If you have one savings account and two sub savings accounts, they all show as savings accounts on Mint.com. If you rename your savings accounts in E-Max to something like ‘vacation’ or ‘gift money,’ Mint.com will display those names instead of listing 3 accounts called ‘savings.’
• These tips are basic and will not solve all syncing issues; any further questions should be directed to Mint.com.
WECU® recently created a Spanish language page for www.wecu.com -Sobre WECU® (About WECU). As a credit union we believe it is part of our mission to provide superior service to our members. WECU® has a number of bi-lingual employees who help members in a variety of languages - from American Sign Language to Ukrainian and more. Spanish is the second most utilized and fastest growing language in the United States and WECU® is making an effort to adjust to this development.Our Sobre WECU® webpage was developed by WECU's Social Responsibility Representative, Reid Frederick, with input from WECU's Spanish speaking employees. The page addresses frequently asked questions, has links to Spanish language financial education tools, and provides contact information for Spanish speaking member service representatives.Through Sobre WECU® we hope to promote the low cost/no cost services available at WECU® to Spanish speaking Whatcom County residents who may not be aware that they are eligible to join the credit union. At WECU® it is our goal to serve both our existing membership and our community to the best of our ability. We hope that Sobre WECU® helps us better serve our Spanish speaking members and Spanish speakers in our community that would benefit from membership at our credit union.
Why does WECU have a Twitter feed?
Social media is definitely taking over the business world. You can’t go a day without reading or hearing about blogs, social networking sites or new and improved social media programs. WECU® launched our Twitter feed March 1st, and with it we hope to connect with you, our members via one more emerging communication channel. WECU®’s Twitter feed will provide members a concise stream of information about what is happening at the credit union, in our community, and with our nonprofit partners. To receive information from WECU®’s Twitter feed you can either check the Twitter stream regularly, subscribe if you already have a Twitter account, or set up a Twitter account and then subscribe to the feed. We’re excited to try out this new communication channel and hope that you will find it a useful way to receive concise information about WECU®.
We changed the way our data processing system works. When you make a payment on your WECU® VISA credit card over E-Max or Tele-Max on a weekend your payment will be credited immediately.This will give you improved service on weekends when we run Visa and month-end statements.
Heading somewhere international for vacation?
In 2010 we added a new service to our E-Max home-banking platform. TravelEx Worldwide Money Exchange allows you to order foreign currency delivered to your home using your WECU® debit card. There’s so much to think about when you’re planning a trip, let WECU® and TravelEx make things a little bit easier. Remember to tell us your travel dates and area, WECU® monitors atypical card transactions to protect you from fraud; purchases in a foreign country (when we aren’t aware of your travel plans) tend to show up as a possible fraud risk.
2011 75th Annual Meeting
The 2011 Annual Meeting took place January 27th, 2011 in the ballroom of the Lakeway Inn. Those in attendance enjoyed a pleasant evening filled with informative presentations, great food, fun prizes, a great meal and wonderful conversation with friends and neighbors. Volunteers Ashok Khanna, Cathie Oberg and James Walsh were elected to serve another 3 year term on WECU's Board of Directors and Carol Lager was elected to serve another 3 years on the Supervisory Committee. It was a wonderful treat to see so many familiar and smiling faces in attendance and we look forward to seeing you at next years' event!
Business Deposit Windows
Members often ask me why we don’t have dedicated windows on our teller lines for business deposits. We continue to look for products and technology upgrades which will allow us to process large business transactions quickly and accurately. While we do have an increasing number of business members with large deposits, having teller windows specifically designated for business transactions only would cripple the flow of members through our lobbies. It is our intention to add products to our Business Service offerings that would give business members alternatives to conducting business in our lobbies. From night-drops to lobby drop boxes to eventual remote deposit capture products, we are continually adding and researching products which will add to the business member’s WECU® experience while freeing up our tellers to assist as many members as possible.
Why am I hosting Wayne's Words?
When I started with WECU® in 1973 I was able to interact and get to know almost every one of our 1,600 members. At the time we had around $1,500,000 in assets and 3 employees. Today we have 65,000 members, roughly $700,000,000 in assets and 270 employees. These days around 600 new people a month join WECU®.
When we were a smaller credit union I used to be able to have conversations with members and explain why we do the things we do. As we've grown it has become more and more difficult to connect with everyone. Hosting Wayne's Words on our website gives me a means through which I can explain a little bit about the credit union. I don't intend to give you pages and pages of detailed explanation but rather bits of insight about what makes WECU® the way it is and why we do what we do.
I am a people pleaser by nature and it truly bothers me when we do something that makes people unhappy. I understand that I can't please every one of our 65,000 members all the time. If only 5% of our 65,000 members don't like something that means there are over 3,000 upset members. I don't ever want to become desensitized to the feelings of our membership.
I want you to understand that at WECU® we make decisions that we believe will benefit our members, our employees, the community, and future generations of people that interact with WECU®.
The Wayne's Words section of our website is not intended to be a blog where I respond to hundreds or thousands of comments, but rather a way for me to share insight about WECU®, the culture of our organization and how it is managed. Maybe one day I will hire someone to manage my e-mail like Bill Gates does, but until then I plan to share insight and information through Wayne's Words. Thank you for your membership!
On Saturday hours and electronic services
Our branches may not be open on the weekends but with E-Max, E-Pay, Mobile Banking, Tele-Max and our 19 ATMs you have access to your account 24 hours a day!
At WECU® we believe that it's important for our employees to spend the weekends with their families. Happy employees mean great service!
We're a company that believes in combining cutting edge products with old-fashioned service values. It's the best of both worlds!
Welcome to the new and improved www.wecu.com! We hope you enjoy the new look and find that our formatting makes it easy to find what you need on the site.
On checking accounts
Complicated doesn't always mean better. Our checking accounts are simple and straightforward with no hidden fees.
On certificate rates/loan rates
The difference between what we charge in interest on loans and what we pay out on savings accounts is called 'the spread' at a credit union. In order for WECU® to remain profitable we have to manage that spread between rates, which is why when loan interest rates around the US are at incredible lows so are the rates on savings products.
On reaching out to families
At WECU® we consider ourselves a family friendly financial institution. From opening your first account to buying your first house, to retirement, we're here for you!
WECU® is a strong financial cooperative. It is our goal to be here to help your grandchildren and your grandchildren's children.
Thank you for being a part of our financial cooperative; you help make WECU® great!