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Leaving town? No need to leave your hometown bank!

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Citizens Bank Minnesota offers online banking, mobile banking, e-statements, bill payment, bank-to-bank transfer and mobile deposit!  Bank-to-bank transfer allows you to quickly transfer funds between your accounts at different institutions.  Bill payments can be setup to automatically come from your account each month! We have mobile banking apps for both Apple and Android smartphones – just search in your app store for “Citizens Bank MN” and download the free app!  Mobile deposit is perfect for those who do not live close to one of our branches.  You can simply take a picture of your check and deposit into your Citizens account! You can find more information about our Online Services at http://www.citizensmn.com

Coming soon!  Advanced Bill Payment, Apple Pay, and EMV chip cards!

If you would like to learn more about any of these features please contact us!

By: Jenn Wendorff, Sr. Client Service Representative

Citizens Celebrates 140 Years of Making Things Happen

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February 1, 2016 marks Citizens Bank Minnesota’s 140th Anniversary! We have a short anniversary video that highlights 140 years of making things happen!  You can view our video here: 140th Anniversary Video

 

Seven Tips to Prevent Tax ID Fraud

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Citizens Bank Minnesota Offers 7 Tips to Prevent Tax ID Fraud

Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week is Jan. 25-29

As Americans begin the process of filing tax returns, identity thieves are scheming to get their hands on that money. Tax identity theft has been the most common form of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission for the past five years. Citizens Bank Minnesota is using Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, Jan. 25-29, to raise consumer awareness and provide tips to prevent tax ID fraud.

Identity thieves look for every opportunity to steal your information, especially during tax season. Consumers should be on high alert and take every step they can to protect their personal and financial information.

Tax identity fraud takes place when a criminal files a false tax return using a stolen Social Security number in order to fraudulently claim the refund. Identity thieves generally file false claims early in the year and victims are unaware until they file a return and learn one has already been filed in their name.

To help consumers prevent tax ID fraud, Citizens is offering the following tips:

  • File early. File your tax return as soon as you’re able giving criminals less time to use your information to file a false return.
  • File on a protected Wi-Fi network. If you’re using an online service to file your return, be sure you’re connected to a password-protected personal network. Avoid using public networks like a Wi-Fi hotspot at a coffee shop.
  • Use a secure mailbox. If you’re filing by mail, drop your tax return at the post office or an official postal box instead of your mailbox at home. Some criminals look for completed tax return forms in home mailboxes during tax season.
  • Find a tax preparer you trust. If you’re planning to hire someone to do your taxes, get recommendations and research a tax preparer thoroughly before handing over all of your financial information.
  • Shred what you don’t need. Once you’ve completed your tax return, shred the sensitive documents that you no longer need and safely file away the ones you do.
  • Beware of phishing scams by email, text or phone. Scammers may try to solicit sensitive information by impersonating the IRS. Know that the IRS will not contact you by email, text or social media. If the IRS needs information, they will contact you by mail first.
  • Keep an eye out for missing mail. Fraudsters look for W-2s, tax refunds or other mail containing your financial information. If you don’t receive your W-2s, and your employer indicates they’ve been mailed, or it looks like it has been previously opened upon delivery, contact the IRS immediately.

If you believe you’re a victim of tax identity theft or if the IRS denies your tax return because one has previously been filed under your name, alert the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490. In addition, you should:

  • Respond immediately to any IRS notice and complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit.
  • Contact your bank immediately, and close any accounts opened without your permission or tampered with.
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus to place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit records:
  • Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.

More information about tax identity theft is available from the FTC at ftc.gov/taxidtheft and the IRS at irs.gov/identitytheft.

Top 10 Money Tips Every Freshman Should Know

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As college students head to campus for the fall semester, money management should be on their personal syllabus. Citizens Bank Minnesota has ten money-saving tips to help college students get an early start on securing their financial future:

  • Create a budget. You’re an adult now and are responsible for managing your own finances. The first step is to create a realistic budget or plan and stick to it.
  • Watch spending. Keep receipts and track spending in a notebook. Pace spending and increase saving by cutting unnecessary expenses like eating out or shopping so that your money can last throughout the semester.
  • Use credit wisely. Understand the responsibilities and benefits of credit.  Use it, but don’t abuse it. How you handle your credit in college could affect you well after graduation.  Shop around for a card that best suits your needs.
  • Take advantage of your bank’s resources. Most banks offer online, mobile and text banking tools to manage your account night and day. Use these tools to check balances, pay bills, deposit checks and monitor transaction history.
  • Lookout for money. There’s a lot of money available for students — you just have to look for it. Apply for scholarships, and look for student discounts or other deals.
  • Buy used. Consider buying used books or ordering them online.  Buying books can become expensive and often used books are in just as good of shape as new ones.
  • Entertain on a budget. Limit your “hanging out” fund.  There are lots of fun activities to keep you busy in college and many are free for students.  Get the most from your student ID. Use your meal plan or sample new recipes instead of eating out.
  • Use only your bank’s ATMs. Avoid fees by using ATMs owned by or affiliated with your bank. If you must use an ATM that is not affiliated with your bank, take out larger withdrawals to avoid having to go back multiple times.
  • Expect the unexpected. Things happen, and it’s important that you are financially prepared when your car or computer breaks down or you have to buy an unexpected bus ticket home.  You should start putting some money away immediately, no matter how small the amount.
  • Ask. This is a learning experience, so if you need help, ask.  Your parents or your bank are a good place to start, and remember—the sooner the better.

Planning a last minute summer get-away?

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Planning for your trip ahead of time can help keep your money safe

Washington, D.C. (August 5, 2014)—The Independent Community Bankers of America® (ICBA) and the nation’s more than 6,500 community banks are providing consumers information they need to help keep their money safe before they plan their next vacation.

“Running out of money or losing your wallet is a quick way to spoil your trip,” John Buhrmaster, president and CEO of 1st National Bank of Scotia, N.Y. said. “Community bankers are relationship bankers who work together with their customers, so in the event something unfortunate does happen, they will be ready to lend a helping hand.”

Financial professionals agree that the safest and most convenient way to travel with your money is to take a small amount of cash with you. Another good idea is to carry a debit and/or credit card along for the trip. These cards are convenient while traveling because they are easy to carry, easy to use and often offer the lowest fees and the best exchange rates.

ICBA offers these tips to consumers about what they need to take care of before they take off:

  • Let your community bank know when and where you will be traveling so that you will avoid any potential denials or fraud alerts when out-of-the-ordinary transactions are presented. This is crucial for international travel.
  • Check your available balances before you leave. Know the limits on how much cash you can withdraw or purchases you can make.
  • Find out what ATM or debit card fees you may be subject to around the country and abroad.
  • Make copies of all the cards you’ll be carrying and take a copy with you. Be sure to also include the customer service phone number.
  • Many credit cards provide travel accident insurance and traveler’s assistance. Ask your community bank what special services are available through your card.
  • Bring a list of emergency phone numbers. Be sure to get a number for your bank that you can call if you’re out of the country.

“Whether you and your family are traveling near or far, it is better to be prepared for any event that comes your way. Your local community bank is always there to help ensure your finances will be kept safe,” Buhrmaster said

Press release from Independent Community Bankers of America

What Is Really Happening With Fannie & Freddie!

fannie-mae-and-freddie-macTHE TRILLION-DOLLAR BATTLE FOR HIGHER MORTGAGE RATES

If you’re a mortgage borrower your great goal in life is to get a lower rate. While 2012 saw the lowest mortgage rates in 65 years, 2013 and early 2014 have not been far off the mark.

In a plot worthy of a James Bond villain, there has been a decided effort in Washington to make the mortgage market less competitive, to assure that the lending system as we know it is  completely gutted and thus to artificially raise mortgage rates.

How?

By replacing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with new firms created by the private sector — but backed with government guarantees. Without Fannie and Freddie costs to borrowers would rise, creating less housing demand but raising huge profits for replacement companies.

A year or two ago the end of Fannie and Freddie seemed like a done deal, but in a sudden reversal, it looks like the two giant mortgage buyers will remain in business for the foreseeable future.

Here’s what’s happening — and why:

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
Fannie and Freddie buy conforming loans from local lenders. These loans are bundled together and re-sold to investors worldwide. Such securities are then insured and guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie in exchange for guarantee fees (g-fees) — fees worth tens of billions of dollars annually.

So who should get the fees?

Until 2008, it was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who got the money, as well as their shareholders. However, with the nationalization of the two giant secondary lenders the picture is no longer so clear. For instance, in 2012 Congress increased the g-fees charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, not to improve their bottom line or lower mortgage rates, but to fund a temporary payroll tax reduction. In effect, Fannie and Freddie became cash cows to be milked by Congress.

Privatization
The big battle is whether Fannie and Freddie should exist at all. There are several plans floating around Washington to replace the two big GSE with private firms, big companies created on Wall Street.

Not usually mentioned is that such plans to “privatize” the secondary market are unnecessary. There are already private firms that buy mortgages and then sell securities to investors. For instance, according to conservative financial writer James K Glassman, private companies controlled 67 percent of the secondary market in 2006 but only 14 percent in 2012.

Why did private-sector companies lose so much market share? It was these companies that securitized toxic and subprime mortgages, the loans most likely to fail and the financing at the heart of the mortgage meltdown.

What makes the DC “private sector” proposals different from the private companies long been active in the secondary market is that the new firms would be backed with federal guarantees, just like Fannie and Freddie. Taxpayers would implicitly be on the hook for any losses while all profits would go to investors. In other words, the new private companies would be exactly the same as Fannie and Freddie before the mortgage meltdown. Only the names on the dividend checks would change.

The government’s position in this matter for the past few years could not be more clear: The Federal Housing  Finance Agency — the bureaucracy that now runs Fannie and Freddie — actually produced a report which lays out the whole plan.

How do we know? Just look at the title: “FHFA’s Initiative to Reduce the Enterprises’ Dominant Position in the Housing Finance System by Raising Gradually Their Guarantee Fees.”

The idea is not to create private companies that through better products or lower costs would gain market share, but instead to purposely hobble Fannie and Freddie with higher costs so they can no longer compete effectively.

The plan to undermine Fannie and Freddie has been in high gear but is now facing resistance. Arguably, it may even be dead.

Net Worth Sweep
What happened to stop one of the biggest lobbying efforts in Washington?

Three things:

First, Fannie and Freddie are hugely profitable — and the profits are now collected by the government and used to hold down the deficit. Fannie has so far paid $114 billion to the federal government while Freddie has chipped in $71.3 billion. The two companies will easily repay the $188 billion advanced by the Treasury.

Payments to the federal government from Fannie and Freddie are not considered “income,” instead in the magical thinking of government finance they are defined as “negative outlays” that “reduce” spending and thus the deficit.

“Much of the drop in spending” for December 2013, said the Congressional Budget Office, “occurred because payments from the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the Treasury were $34 billion more than they were last year.”

Second, unlike Citigroup, General Motors, Chrysler or AIG, federal claims against Fannie and Freddie will not end with the repayment of advances plus interest. In one of the most unusual financial strategies ever seen, last summer the government unilaterally declared that it was entitled to a “net worth sweep” from the two companies, meaning that it would take all profits and income from Fannie and Freddie.

If the government takes all income it means no cash is available to pay dividends to other shareholders or rebuild capital reserves. The government now faces multiple suits as a result of the “net worth sweep” policy because of claims that it’s violating the “taking” clause of the Fifth Amendment by not offering “just” compensation to shareholders.

No one knows how the courts will  rule on such claims, but prospects for the federal government are fairly grim. In the 1996 Winstar case, shareholders of illegally-seized savings-and-loan associations won $30 billion in compensation for the loss of their property. The claims from Fannie and Freddie shareholders could be substantially larger.

Third, given the flood of money generated by Fannie and Freddie, maybe their premeditated and artificial collapse is not such a good policy. Not only would the government lose dividend payments, it would also have new liabilities with their private-sector  replacements.

In addition — and not to be overlooked — with an end to Fannie and Freddie borrowers would face higher financing costs. Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told the Associated Press that privatization of the secondary market would increase the cost of a typical $200,000 mortgage by $75 to $135 a month — that’s $900 to $1,620 per year — with no additional benefit to borrowers.

You can see the impact of recent federal policies by looking at conventional and jumbo mortgage rates. In an historic reversal, jumbo loans are now cheaper than conventional mortgages because g-fees have pushed up the cost of conventional loans. This happens because jumbo financing is not purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, thus such loans do not include g-fees.

The re-thinking of government policies was dramatically shown when still-another increase in the g-fee was announced in December and stopped in January. Interestingly, the increase was the last major act of outgoing FHFA Director Ed DeMarco — and the first for incoming Director Mel Watt.

Article taken from RealtyTrac.com, written by Peter Miller, Contributor

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June Is American Housing Month

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6 Tips for Saving for Your Down Payment

Before you can make the transition from renting your home to owning your home, you will need to have a substantial down payment, typically 5 to 20 percent of the home’s value. The American Bankers Association suggests the following tips to help save for it:

​Develop a budget & timeline. 

Start by determining how much you’ll need for a down payment. Create a budget and calculate how much you can realistically save each month – that will help you gauge when you’ll be ready to transition from renter to homeowner.

Establish a separate savings account. 

Set up a separate savings account exclusively for your down payment and make your monthly contributions automatic. By keeping this money separate, you’ll be less likely to tap into it when you’re tight on cash.

Shop around to reduce major monthly expenses.

It’s a good idea to check rates for your car insurance, renter’s insurance, health insurance, cable, Internet or cell phone plan. There may be deals or promotions available that allow you to save hundreds of dollars by adjusting your contracts.

Monitor your spending.

With online banking, keeping an eye on your spending is easier than ever. Track where most of your discretionary income is going. Identify areas where you could cut back (e.g. nice meals out, vacations, etc.) and instead put that money into savings.

Look into state and local home-buying programs. 

Many states, counties and local governments operate programs for first-time homebuyers. Some programs offer housing discounts, while others provide down payment loans or grants.

Celebrate savings milestones.

Saving enough for a down payment can be daunting. To avoid getting discouraged, break it up into smaller goals and reward yourself when you reach each one. If you need to save $30,000 total, consider treating yourself to a nice meal every $5,000 saved. This will help you stay motivated throughout the process.

Article taken from American Bankers Association, June 2014

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