Credit Counseling & Financial Education
Money management can be challenging at times, so we’ve partnered with BALANCE, a free and confidential financial education and counseling service that can help you get on track. BALANCE can help when you want to:
Develop a sensible spending and savings plan
Seek help getting out of debt
Review your credit report
Discover the secrets to buying a home
Begin planning for your financial future
BALANCE Offers Educational Resources and Programs:
Toll-Free Infoline – Certified counselors are available Monday – Saturday to answer your questions about money management and other personal finance topics.
Debt and Budget Coaching – Explore the options of a Debt Management Plan (DMP) for repayment of unsecured debt. Counselors can also review spending patterns, create a spending plan that allows you to take charge of your financial situation. You can also discuss your financial goals and develop an action plan for any challenges you might face so you can achieve those goals.
Credit Report Review – Counselors can review your credit report and answer questions about your credit score, building a strong credit history, and how to correct any inaccuracies that might appear.
Student Loan Coaching – Counselors can assist those still in school as well as those who have graduated and are managing student loan debt.
Homeownership Coaching – Counselors are readily available to help you make sense of everything that goes into purchasing a home, including help with pre-purchase counseling, foreclosure prevention, and reverse mortgage counseling.
Rental Coaching – Free education on building credit and becoming a desirable tenant. Specialized rental counselors will help you develop a personalized spending plan and provide you with advice for saving money, increasing income, and reducing debt.
BALANCE counselors are available Monday–Thursday 8:00 am–11:00 pm, Friday 8:00 am–8:00 pm, Saturday 11:00 am–8:00 pm. So when you call their toll-free hotline at (888) 456-2227 or submit an online request to speak with a counselor, remember to tell them that you are a Summit Federal Credit Union member. To learn more about BALANCE and the services they offer, visit their website (which is also available in Spanish).
The Right to Access Your Credit Report
If you have been denied credit, a loan, insurance, or employment because of information on your credit report, the company that turned you down is required to inform you of that reason and provide the name of the bureau they used (Experian, TransUnion or Equifax). You’re also entitled to a free copy of your credit report within 60 days of being turned down.
Get a FREE Copy of Your Credit Report
You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report annually. The three major credit bureaus have established one central website, phone number, and mailing address for ordering your free report. They will only provide free annual reports through this central location. Reports requested online can be viewed immediately. Phone or mail requests take approximately 15 days to process. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com, call (877) 322-8228 or mail your request to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281 to get your copy.
You may also receive a free copy of your credit report from each of the three bureaus at any time if you’re unemployed or on public assistance, or if your report is inaccurate due to fraud.
P.O. Box 390
Springfield, PA 19064-0390
(800) 680-7289 (fraud)
Through our partnership with the BALANCE Financial Fitness Program, our members can have a free, confidential review of their credit report. Members who take advantage of this benefit experience an average 36-point increase in their credit scores over the 6-12 months that follow. Learn more about BALANCE.
Financial Education Programs
At The Summit, we’re somewhat unique in our desire to help you understand the fundamentals of financial services and money management so you can make positive decisions and handle your finances effectively. Check out these presentations for valuable information you can use starting today.
These presentations and information are available at no cost to you and are provided as an educational and informative service to both our members and member companies. For more information, please call (585) 453-7272 or (800) 836-7328 extension 7272.
10 Tips for Establishing Good Financial Habits
Set a budget for meals and fun. Take the amount out at the ATM once per week. When this cash is gone, you have no more to spend that week for “treats.” Try not to withdraw more cash unless it is a true emergency. This will help prevent impulse buys and reduce any ATM fees you may be incurring. If you have cash left over at the end of the week, add it to your emergency fund or long term savings account.
What do you spend in a month? Create a monthly budget and track expenditures versus income each month to see if you are on track.
Save for emergencies. Establish a savings account that doesn’t allow ATM withdrawals. You’ll be less inclined to take the funds out if you have to visit a branch and they will be there when you need them.
Get the right terms on a car purchase. When considering an auto loan, try to keep your loan term to no more than 48 months for a used car and 60 months for a new car.
Keep it old school. It might be “old school,” but use a check register to accurately track your spending. This is the best way to know exactly where your money is going.
Be protected while establishing credit. Get a credit card with a limit you can afford to pay off monthly since your debit card does not help establish your credit history. The limit should be no more than roughly 50% of your monthly income. Credit is also a safer option when making online purchases, and you will need a credit card if you ever need to rent a car, make a plane reservation, or rent a hotel room. Look for a card with no annual fee and a reasonable rate of interest.
Don’t let student loans get you down. Keep up with student loan payments, as late loan payments hurt your credit score. If you can’t make payments, contact your student loan lender to see if you qualify for any deferral programs.
Set long-term financial goals. Write down your goals and set aside a percentage of your income each month toward them. Vacation? New car? These objectives will be more attainable if you save little by little.
Another option for establishing credit. Open a small line of credit tied to your checking account and pay it off monthly. This will help your credit score, and prevent fees for overdrafts or insufficient funds. Don’t use the line of credit intentionally; it should only be an emergency backup.
Start saving for retirement now. Participate in your employer-sponsored retirement plans or 401k to the greatest extent you can. Start with at least enough to get the full benefit of any employer match.
For more helpful information on managing your finances, check out our:
Protect Yourself From a New Check Deposit Scam
The Summit has become aware of a scam that usually targets young people who have access to an ATM/debit card. In the scam, a fraudster contacts someone (a “helper”), often via social media. The fraudster makes a deal to deposit a check into the helper’s account, withdraw half (or another amount) of the money, and leave the remaining half for the helper to keep.
When the check is found to be fraudulent, the helper becomes an accomplice to the crime and is responsible for all the money withdrawn. In some cases, the helper gives the fraudster his or her ATM card and PIN, making it easy for the fraudster to withdraw more money from the account.
Never let anyone make a transaction into or from your account and never loan or give out your ATM card and PIN. Be very suspicious of any promise of free money.
Fraud Prevention is available at your fingertips
Purchase Alerts is a free service that helps you monitor your Summit Visa® Debit and Credit Card transactions through real-time email and text message notifications. Not only are these alerts a great tool to help you track your spending, but they also give you peace of mind knowing that your cards are being monitored for unauthorized transactions.
Having these alerts offers the ability to:
Immediately identify potential fraudulent activity by sending transaction alerts in real-time.
Take an active role in managing your transactions, tracking your spending, and staying on top of your account balances.
Receive notifications about when and where your card was used, as well as the dollar amount of the transaction.
You can sign up to receive the following alerts:
Authorizations for $1 or more
All phone or online purchases
All transactions outside of the United States
All gas purchases
To enroll in Purchase Alerts, visit the Purchase Alerts Website or access the link within Online Banking. On the navigation bar under “Credit Cards” or “Debit Cards”, click “Visa Credit Purchase Alerts” to be taken to the Visa website for Purchase Alerts. Each card needs to be entered in the system separately, including new cards of a previously-enrolled account. For more information, you can visit the Visa Purchase Alert FAQs.
If you have any questions, please contact our Member Service Center at (585) 453-7030 or (800) 836-7328 extension 7030.
The Summit does not charge a fee for this service. If Purchase Alerts are sent to you via text message, standard text messaging rates may apply. Check your plan or contact your wireless provider if you aren’t sure whether additional fees might apply. Authorizations will be sent to you as they are received, which can be any time during the day or night, and may be dependent on your service availability. The Summit is not responsible for an alert not being sent or received. You may also cancel whenever you choose. You must be joint/co-borrower to link a card.
Fraudulent activity is on the rise
In today’s digital world, it’s important to be on the lookout for fraudulent activity and to know how to safeguard yourself against it. At The Summit, we monitor this kind of activity on daily – and even hourly – basis.
If you’re planning to travel out of the area on vacation or have experienced an issue using your Summit Visa® Debit Card for purchases, please give our Member Service Center a call at (585) 453-7030 or (800) 836-7328 extension 7030 so we can ensure that your transactions are processed seamlessly.
Identity theft is one of the most prevalent crimes in America today. You’ll find resources and advice below to help protect you from this growing problem.
How fraudsters obtain personal information:
Dumpster Diving: Going through trash to find bills and papers with personal information on it.
Phishing: Posing as financial institutions or companies like eBay or PayPal and sending spam or pop-up messages to get consumers to reveal personal information. Phishing can also be in the form of text messages asking for your personal information, or asking you to call a fake phone number or visit a fake website.
Skimming: Stealing credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
Property Theft: Stealing wallets and purses; mail, including credit union, bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information.
Spyware: Tricking victims into downloading illicit software when they open an attachment by recording keystrokes to get credit card numbers and passwords.
How to prevent ID theft:
Here are 8 quick tips on how to protect yourself against scams:
- Never give any personal information to anyone, unless it is someone you have contacted directly. Personal information should never be provided to an unsolicited email, text or phone call. At The Summit, we will never call you and ask for personal information. If you get a call from someone that says they are from The Summit and they are asking for personal account information, hang up and give us a call.
- Don’t respond to a text message or phone call from a number you don’t recognize.
- Always check your account and credit card statements for any unusual activity. If there is any unexplained transaction activity, report it to us as soon as possible.
- Keep your debit and credit cards in a safe place. We recommend carrying the minimum number of debit and credit cards as possible. Cards that are not carried with you should be kept in a secured location.
- Never give anyone your Personal Identification Number (PIN) number.
- When you’re online, make sure that you’re on a secure website before making a payment. Always verify the website address is correct in the address bar. We also recommend not accessing your bank account when on public WIFI.
- Never click on any links or open any attached files in a spam email, even if it looks like it is from someone on your contact list.
What to do if it happens to you:
File a police report.
If your Summit checkbook, Visa® Debit Card or Visa® Credit Card is stolen, report it to us as soon as possible. Contact The Summit’s Member Service Center at (585) 453-7030 or (800) 836-SFCU extension 7030 during business hours, or (800) 682-6075 for credit cards after 5pm.
Cancel lost cards immediately. Close accounts that have been tampered with. As a precaution, make photocopies of both sides of the contents of your wallet and keep the copies in a safe place. If anything should happen, you will have copies of your cards, complete with account numbers and contact information.
Contact the credit reporting agencies and ask them to place a fraud alert on your reports. With an alert in place, any company checking your credit will know your information was stolen and they must contact you by phone to authorize new credit. Visit the credit report page of our website for contact information.
If the crime involves mail, you can report mail fraud to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at (877) 876-2455.
For additional information on ID Theft, visit the following websites:
Fraud and Identity Theft Tip Sheet: Facts and statistics, how to protect your identity, what to do if you become a victim, and contact information for credit reporting agencies.
Report Your Valid Passport Lost or Stolen: Information and resources to report your Passport lost or stolen.
Better Business Bureau: Take the quiz and get tips on prevention.
New York State Consumer Protection Board: Information and resources to help reduce your risk of ID theft.
Anti-Phishing Working Group: How to avoid Phishing scams.
National Fraud Information Center: Advice, trends, and more.