If you are like most Americans, your mail box is filled with offers for credit cards, mortgage refinancing and home equity loans. Many of those offers stress the benefits of moving existing balances to the new lenders. While that may sound appealing, especially if the new loan offers an attractive initial interest rate, it is important to consider all the factors associated with debt consolidation.

Debt Consolidation is debt management, not debt elimination
Moving all your outstanding loan balances to one lender will not reduce the amount you owe. You must ultimately pay off the loan and pay interest until the loan is repaid. Your goal should be using debt wisely. Consider the following steps:

Pay down your credit card debt
Even if you have not borrowed the maximum allowed for your credit card, paying down your balance should be one of your top priorities.

  • Pay more than the minimum on your credit card balance. Interest rates charged on most credit cards are usually much higher than those found on other loans.
  • Making your credit card payment as soon as you get the statement will help reduce the interest you are charged.
  • Minimize your credit card usage for a period. Along with not subjecting higher balances to interest, using cash may help you identify ways to spend less.

Evaluate the real estate based alternatives
Start by reviewing the interest rates on your existing debts. Credit cards and unsecured personal loans usually have higher interest rates than other forms of secured debt like a mortgage, home equity loan or an auto loan. If you find that your rate on a home equity line of credit is less than the rates on credit cards, other personal loans or auto loans, utilizing borrowing through that line of credit may save you money.

Then evaluate your borrowing capacity available through a mortgage or a home equity loan. Borrowing through a shorter-term home equity loan will probably lower your interest rate, but most home equity loans have variable interest rates. If you have a great deal of high interest rate debt, increasing the size of your fixed rate mortgage with a refinancing (even if you end up with a slightly higher mortgage rate than what you currently have) may result in lower overall interest costs. The interest you pay on your mortgage or home equity loan is also tax deductible if you itemize your deductions.

Final words

  • Discuss your situation with your financial institution. They will be able to explain the alternatives and may offer you a special program because of your existing relationship.
  • Evaluating these real estate based alternatives can get a bit complicated, so you may want to discuss them with a financial professional.
  • Use common sense. Remember that borrowing money means you have to repay it. If your borrowing is too high, take immediate steps to reduce it. Every dollar of debt reduction will translate into less interest you have to pay.
  • Get professional help if you need it. There are many organizations that help consumers when all else fails. The Consumer Credit Counseling Service is one you may want to consider. Look in the phone book for a local office. Their service is free and they have helped thousands. Be very wary of any organization that wants you to pay a fee for their services or that promise an easy solution to your situation. If their message sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.

Hot Topics

What is FAIRWINDS' Routing Number?

263181368

What are the 2013 IRA and HSA contribution limits?

Find out here.

When will I receive my 2012 5498 form?

Find out here.

What is a Routing Number?

FAIRWINDS' routing number (263181368) is used to identify FAIRWINDS Credit Union from other financial institutions and in no way identifies you or your accounts to others.

A routing transit number (RTN) is a nine digit bank code, used in the United States, to facilitate the sorting, bundling, and shipment of paper checks back to the drawer's (check writer's) account.

The RTN is also used by Federal Reserve Banks to process Fedwire funds transfers, and by the Automated Clearing House (ACH) to process direct deposits, bill payments, and other such automated transfers.

What can I do with my Relationship Rewards points?

Relationship Rewards provide you the opportunity to enjoy special member benefits including:

  • Buying down the interest rate on a loan.
  • Increasing your rate on a new CD.
  • Reducing service charges on additional products and services.
Learn more about our Relationship Rewards program.

How do I send or receive a wire?

To send a wire from FAIRWINDS, please provide the following:

  • Name, address and routing number of financial institution receiving the wire
  • Account number for the receiving account
  • Name and address of receiving account holder

There is a $20.00 service charge for an outgoing domestic wire from a personal account and a $25.00 service charge for an outgoing wire from a business account.

To receive a wire at the credit union, you will need to provide the following:

  • FAIRWINDS routing number (263-181-368)
  • Name of account holder
  • FAIRWINDS account number to receive the funds

There is a $10.00 service charge for an incoming domestic wire to a personal account and $15.00 service charge for an incoming wire to a business account.

*Please verify this information with the receiving financial institution as there may be an intermediary financial instititution involved.

When should I expect my 5498-ESA tax forms?

5498-ESA tax forms will be mailed by April 30th for all Coverdell Educational Savings Account owners who made contributions and/or rollovers into their ESA's in 2011.

5498 and 5498-SA tax forms will be mailed in mid-May for all Traditional, SEP, and Roth IRA owners and Health Savings Account owners who made contributions and/or rollovers into their IRA's and HSA's in 2011.

For questions regarding the 5498 forms please call Member Services at 407-277-5045 or visit your local branch.

When should I expect my tax forms?

FAIRWINDS mails 1099-INT and 1098 tax forms at the end of January. However, if you have e-Statements, these tax forms are available online right now!
Learn more here.

Members will only receive a 1099-INT form if the aggregate earnings amongst the accounts they are tax reported for (the primary owner) have earned at least $10 in interest.

These accounts include:
Savings, checking, money market, certificates of deposit, and US Bonds Redeemed, but do not include IRA accounts. If members have not earned at least $10 in interest, they will not receive a 1099-INT form.

Members will only receive a 1098 Mortgage Interest Statement if they paid $600 or more in interest on their mortgage.

FAIRWINDS mails 1099-R, 1099-Q, 1099-SA, and FMV/RMD statements to members by January 31st each year. We also mail 5498, 5498-SA, and 5498 ESA forms to members by the end of May.

Important information for all MasterCard® and VISA® credit and debit card holders.

You may have seen news stories recently about a potential data breach with MasterCard® and VISA® through a third-party payment processor. While there is no indication that any FAIRWINDS members have been impacted by this event, it is an opportunity to remind all consumers about the importance of being diligent, safeguarding your personal information and monitoring your accounts on a regular basis to minimize the effects of fraud.

Take the few extra steps to proactively protect your accounts. If you believe your credit or debit card information is at risk or unauthorized transactions have posted to your account, contact your financial institution immediately. In addition, you may want to consider looking into an identity theft alert program to keep you informed of activity on your accounts. There are many reputable programs available, including ID Secure. Click here to learn more.

There is an active texting scam occurring in the Central Florida area.

People are receiving a text at random stating their "card has been deactivated." This is a Scam!

Always remember, FAIRWINDS will never ask members to provide confidential information, such as debit or credit card numbers, PINs or Social Security numbers via email, text messages, direct mail or over the phone.

If you feel you are the victim of account fraud or identify theft, act immediately. This should help minimize the damage to your personal accounts and credit rating. Click here to learn more.

What are the 2013 IRA and HSA contribution limits?

Traditional and Roth IRA owners under age 50 may contribute up to $5,500 toward tax year 2013. A $1,000 catch up contribution may be added for Traditional and Roth IRA owners age 50 and over.

2013 SEP contribution limits have increased to a maximum of $51,000 or 25% of the employee's compensation, whichever is less.

HSA owners under age 55 with an individual HDHP (self coverage only) may contribute up to $3,250 toward tax year 2013. HSA owners under age 55 with a family HDHP may contribute up to $6,450 toward tax year 2013. A $1,000 catch up contribution may be added for HSA owners age 55 and over.

When will I receive my 2012 5498 form?

5498, 5498-SA, and 5498-ESA forms report IRA, HSA, and ESA contributions, rollovers, conversions, and fair market value (December 31st balance) information to the IRS and account owners. 5498 and 5498-SA forms are expected to be mailed by Saturday, May 18th.

Please contact Member Services at (407) 277-5045 or visit your local branch if you have questions about your form(s).

How can I make a prior year (2012) contribution to my IRA or HSA?

Eligible prior year (2012) IRA and HSA contributions may be made through the close of business on Monday, April 15th. The IRS requires signed documentation before contributions may be designated for a prior year.

Members can accomplish this by visiting a local branch during business hours or by submitting an e-Signed form through Retirement Central® and click Manage An Account on the left menu.