For many, using credit is a normal part of handling their finances. For others, using credit can lead to uncontrolled spending, anxiety, unpleasantness or even bankruptcy. If you want (or need) to reduce your debt, here are some ideas that may help.

Develop an overall debt strategy.
Borrow money for things that provide long-term and lasting value. Borrowing for college costs is probably good while charging another extravagant vacation on your credit card is probably not a good use of debt.

Credit Cards
Decide on a credit card strategy. Remember that every time you charge something on a credit card, you will have to pay for it. Don’t charge things you can’t afford. Try to pay your entire balance each month to avoid finance charges and be sure to make the payments promptly to avoid any late payment fees.

Choose a credit card that offers the right combination of fees, rates and benefits. If you pay every credit card bill in full and don't incur any finance charges, it may be OK to have a card that has a high interest rate but offers rewards for use (like airline miles or money back) or has no annual fee. If you carry over balances and pay finance charges, the interest rate becomes more important.

If credit cards are too tempting, get rid of them. Using checks or a debit card can eliminate the risk of buying things when you don’t have money in your account to pay for them. Cash works too.

Mortgages
If considering a mortgage for a new home purchase, first identify the type of mortgage that matches your behavior. If you plan to sell your house soon, you may want an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) with a lower interest rate. If you plan to stay in the home or can't afford any increase in payments if interest rates rise, consider a long-term fixed rate mortgage.

With the recent fall in interest rates, you may want to consider refinancing your mortgage to get a lower rate. You may also wish to consider switching to a shorter-term mortgage. Depending on how the numbers work, you may be able to keep your monthly payments about the same and switch from a 30-year mortgage to a 15-year mortgage. You will be debt free much sooner.

Examine the rates
Eliminate high cost borrowing. Determine if you can convert high interest rate debt to another type with lower rates. If you are paying high interest rates on credit card balances, find a card with a lower rate, but watch out for "teaser" rates. If you have equity in your home, consider a home equity loan to consolidate all your debts at a lower rate.

Getting help
What if you can't pay your bills? This is when you should get help. First, stop incurring more debt - quit using or destroy your credit cards. Then, contact your creditors to work out a payment schedule. Explain your situation and that you want to pay what you owe. They may be able to help. If not, at least you have tried.

Don't bounce checks. In some states, it is a worse offense to write a bad check than it is to not pay your debt. In addition, you may be charged for the bad check. It looks very bad to a creditor if your check bounces.

Get professional help if you need it. There are several non-profit organizations, such as Consumer Credit Counseling, that help individuals when all else fails. They can help you create a plan to work your way out of debt. Look in your phone book for a local office. Their service is free and has helped thousands. Be very wary of organizations that offer to fix your credit rating or want you to pay a fee to get you out of debt easily.

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.