Are you eligible for Home Affordable Refinance Program?

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have adopted changes to the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) and you may be eligible to take advantage of these changes. If your mortgage is owned or guaranteed by either Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, you may be eligible to refinance your mortgage under the enhanced and expanded provisions of HARP.

Take the First Steps
Follow the steps below to determine whether you’re eligible to refinance your mortgage under the new HARP program and enjoy the benefits of a more affordable mortgage.

Step 1
Determine whether your mortgage is on file with Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. To check, complete the short online forms on their websites:

https://ww3.freddiemac.com/corporate/
http://www.fanniemae.com/loanlookup/

You may also call 1-800-FREDDIE or 1-800-7Fannie.

Step 2
If you can answer “true” to the following questions, you may be eligible to refinance your mortgage under the HARP program.

True or False:  I have verified that my loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac
True or False:  I have made all of my mortgage payments on time in the past 6 months
True or False:  My mortgage has not been previously refinanced under the HARP Program

If you have questions or problems a great resource is the Washington Homeownership Resource Center at http://www.homeownership-wa.org/.

Bank Simpler with Remote Banking Options

When dealing with the rush of a busy day, it's nice to have the freedom to access your accounts right from your computer, your phone, or a nearby ATM and it may even save you time and money.

 

  1. First, you want to have a good handle on your finances so you understand what you can realistically afford. That requires you knowing the ends and outs of your credit report. Order a free copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com and get to know everything on it and correct any mistakes directly with the credit bureau.

  2. Secondly, develop a realist budget. This will help you determine how much home you can really afford without causing too much financial stress.

  3. The third part of preparation is to get pre-approved for a home loan. While the days of getting a home loan by just telling the financial institution what you earn are behind us -you now have to actually provide a pay stub or tax return as proof - this does not mean that you have to have perfect credit to qualify for a home loan.

    For example, to qualify for a “conventional” mortgage you will need a credit score of at least 680 however, to qualify for a loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) you can have a score as low as 580.

  4. Now, it’s time to prepare for working with a realtor by detailing your wants and your needs. To find the home that will work for you, make a list and prioritize the most important things you want and need in your new home. Be sure to share this list with your Realtor and be ready to answer the questions your realtor will ask.

Free Home Buying Advice

To learn more about how to buy a home visit the website of The Washington Homeownership Resource Center at www.homeownership-wa.org.There are a lot of free first-time homebuyer seminars and resources that are available for you to get you on the path of homeownership.

Visit www.becu.org/seminars for a list of in-person seminars and educational articles.

Stop Paying Banking Fees

If you’re like me, adding up that occasional $5 here and $10 there can be frightening. If we take a close look at where our money is going we can probably find areas where we are buying things we don’t really need or paying for something that we can get for free. 

Free Checking and ATM Options
One of the most common areas where we waste the most money is…banking, specifically checking accounts and ATM fees. You should never have to pay for a checking account AND you should never be subjected to hidden and surprise fees. You should also not have to pay to get your cash out of an ATM.  If you are paying ATM surcharges, check with your bank or credit union to see what “surcharge free” options they have for you.

You’ll be surprised at how fast the savings will add up.
 

Don't Get Hit with an IRA Penalty

If at all possible, we never want to tap into our IRA or other investment account before retirement; however, unforeseen circumstances in a challenging economy may force you to do so. 

What’s the Penalty
With the ROTH IRA you are not going to pay any taxes or penalty on the amount that was originally principle that you contributed

However, with a Traditional IRA you are going to owe income taxes and possibly a 10% penalty if you are under 59½.

There are Exceptions
If you are disabled or if the money was used for unreimbursed medical expenses, qualified higher education expenses, or the purchase of a first home, you may not have to pay the penalty. 
If you fall into any of these categories make sure you talk to your tax preparer.  If this was overlooked in the last three years look into amending your return.

BECU offers free seminars around the Puget Sound region on investing. To find one near you, visit www.becu.org/seminars.

Notify Your Financial Institution Before You Travel

Don’t get stuck without access to your debit or credit card when you are traveling away from home.

Making purchases outside of your normal pattern can trigger unsuspicious activity on your account, often resulting in your account being frozen until your financial institution can reach you to verify the transaction. Or in a worst case, if your card is compromised you could be left without access to funds.

 

Don’t get stuck without access to your debit or credit card when you are traveling away from home.

Making purchases outside of your normal pattern can trigger unsuspicious activity on your account, often resulting in your account being frozen until your financial institution can reach you to verify the transaction. Or in a worst case, if your card is compromised you could be left without access to funds.

Notify Your Financial Institution When Traveling – Even If You Are Not leaving The Country

If you are going to traveling out-of-state or abroad, to minimize any disruption it is always a good idea to notify your financial institution of your travel plans and how they can reach you before you leave. Doing so will minimize the chances of your card being frozen when you are trying to make a legitimate purchase.

Helpful Tips for Traveling with Your Card
1.   Make sure you have emergency phone numbers for your financial institution. If traveling outside the U.S., toll-free 800 phone numbers will not work. Make sure you have a contact phone number for your financial institution that is accessible from outside the U.S.
2.   Immediately notify your financial institution if your card is lost or stolen.
3.   Monitor transactions on your account using Online Banking.
4.   Always take at least one back-up source of funds with you, and be sure you have contact phone numbers for your credit card provider.
5.   In Europe, many ATMs do not offer the option of withdrawing or transferring funds from a savings account. Make sure your checking account has sufficient funds to meet your cash needs.
6.   Look at the logos on the back of your card. These logos indicate the networks where your card will work. If your card is refused, it may be because the machine is not on a compatible network.