Winter and the holidays are not only times to come together with family and friends for good food, football, and holiday cheer; they’re also a great opportunity to save on needed items through major holiday sales. During this time, retailers, service providers, and other vendors tend to incentivize potential customers to buy. While the thought of winter sales would normally conjure up images of everything from electronics as holiday gifts to exercise equipment (to reach those New Year’s resolutions), there are also exciting seasonal offerings in the credit world too. More and more providers are offering great deals with low rates and waived fees on a variety of services.

Credit cards and personal loans are typically the first things that come to mind when one is in financial need. Now that need may be as small as family gifts for the holidays or as big as a pool for the kids next summer, but one thing continues to ring true; people are more inclined to spend (and over spend) during the holidays as their mindsets shift from the relaxed freedom of Fall to refocusing on household/family needs. That is why it is smart to look into any credit card companies and local bank branches who may be offering enticing incentives for securing credit or a loan during this time. Remember, back to school specials apply to students in need of financial security too!

For many people, the winter includes driving around town to enjoy the lights and decorations, or traveling to visit family and friends for the holidays. Therefore, it’s only natural that auto insurance and loan vendors choose this time of the year to offer their biggest savings initiatives. People can daydream about one day owning the best car out there, or the one they’ve fantasized about since being a kid, but if it doesn’t include a sound financial partner offering quality service at low rates, a dream car can quickly turn into a nightmare.

A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is a great tool for creating a sense of security. Most rates associated with this type of credit tend to be lower than your average credit card or loan rates; therefore, the potential to decrease current payments through consolidating debt is very strong. Additionally, not only do you pay less interest through a HELOC, the interest that is paid can typically be written off as tax deductible. Unlike personal loans where a lump sum is taken out all at once, credit lines can be drawn from for the exact amounts needed; most people find this method easier to manage as there is only a responsibility to pay back the money required in the moment, without the full weight of a larger amount collecting interest along the way.

An excellent means of acquiring credit assistance is to partner with a trusted organization with the experience and incentives (seasonal or not) that can make a difference amongst the competitive landscape. Here’s a look at the loan deals currently being offered by one of the industry’s leading credit unions.

EECU was recently named top credit union in DFW by Consumer Reports® —and provides an easy way to get access to financial products and services if you live in the Dallas Fort Worth Area. When it comes to credit cards, EECU offers excellent options with no annual fees and no fee balance transfers at 6.9% APR1 for life. EECU’s home equity line of credit provides important financial security at a low intro rate of 2.99% APR2 through January 31, 2017, then a variable rate as low as 4.00%2 APR thereafter. There are currently and no closing costs2 and you will enjoy an expedited closing process2. Additionally, EECU is running a promotion in which they will beat any auto loan by 2%3 when you refinance your current auto loan with them. Also, EECU is offering personal loans with rates as low as 5.99% APR4. EECU’s online applications make it easy to take advantage of these offers.


1 APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Rate is effective as of January 15, 2016. 6.9% APR is only available to qualified members for balance transfers made within 90-days from the anniversary date of account opening. This APR will be non-variable. Balance transfers made 91 days or more from the anniversary date of account opening will be made at the standard Balance Transfer APR (10.24%-17.99%). Rates are subject to change without notice. Membership in EECU is required – membership information available at eecu.org. All loans are subject to credit approval and EECU lending policies. This limited-time offer is subject to change at any time without notice. Cardholder benefits are subject to change without notice. Balance Transfer Information – Balance transfers are not considered purchases, therefore no grace period applies and finance charges will begin on the transaction date. This offer is valid for balances transferred from other institutions only. Please continue making payments on your other credit card and loan account(s) until the balance transfer is confirmed on your other institution’s account statement. By applying, you certify that all information provided by you at the time of acceptance is true, correct, and complete and that you are (a) at least 18 years of age and legally able to enter into a contract for the extension of credit and (b) a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Click for Important Account Terms.

2 The Introductory Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for home equity lines of credit is a fixed rate until January 31, 2017. After the introductory period, the APR will be variable and will be based on the Prime Rate as published in The Wall Street Journal Rates Table (the “index”) plus a margin. The minimum APR is 4.00% after the expiration of the introductory period and applies during the draw and repayment periods. The annual percentage rate is subject to change semi-annually after the introductory period. Any change will be effective on the 1st day of January and the 1st day of July.  An increase in the index will result in higher payments.  A decrease in the index will result in lower payments. The APR cannot increase or decrease more than 2% in any 1 year period.  In no event will the APR exceed 18%.  Minimum payments are required during the draw and repayment periods. Offer limited to consumer home equity lines of credit not currently held at EECU. Property insurance required, including flood insurance where applicable. The minimum advance during the draw period is $4,000. No closing costs for loans $174,999 or less. If an appraisal is required to determine property value, you are responsible for the cost of the appraisal. Loan amount may not exceed 50% of your property’s value, with a combined loan to value of 80%, other restrictions may apply. Membership in EECU is required – membership information available at eecu.org. All loans are subject to credit approval and EECU lending policies. In Texas, there is a 12 day cooling off period on all HELOCs. Actual time of funding may differ depending on appraisal, title and other documentation requirements. By applying, you certify that all information provided by you at the time of acceptance is true, correct, and complete and that you are (a) at least 18 years of age and legally able to enter into a contract for the extension of credit and (b) a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Consult your tax advisor regarding the deductibility of interest. Equal Housing Opportunity lender.

3 This offer is to refinance an auto loan from another lender. All loans are subject to credit approval and EECU lending policies. Floor rate is 2.50% Annual Percentage Rate. Membership in EECU is required – membership information available at eecu.org. Offer valid only on loans older than 90 days. Not valid with loans currently financed with EECU. Minimum refinanced auto loan amount is $2,500. Maximum auto loan rate is 18.00% Annual Percentage Rate. 90-day delay of first payment with credit approval. Interest will accrue during the payment deferral period. EECU does not charge application or refinance fees. Vehicle title transfer fees will apply. Vehicle titling fees may differ depending on your county of residence. Additional terms and conditions apply. Offer and rates subject to change without notice. By applying, you certify that all information provided by you at the time of acceptance is true, correct, and complete and that you are (a) at least 18 years of age and legally able to enter into a contract for the extension of credit and (b) a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

4 APR = Annual Percentage Rate. The APR ranges from 5.99% to 16.99%. Membership in EECU is required – membership information available at eecu.org. All loans are subject to credit approval and EECU lending policies. By applying, you certify that all information provided by you at the time of acceptance is true, correct, and complete and that you are (a) at least 18 years of age and legally able to enter into a contract for the extension of credit and (b) a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Must complete and return all required documents within the same business day received in order for money to be deposited into an EECU share or checking account. Same day deposit does not apply for special account requests or EECU direct pay to creditors. Click for loan details.

The FAFSA is Changing This Year

People starting college in the fall of 2017 probably haven’t yet decided where they’re going to school, let alone figured out how much money they’ll need to do it, but it’s almost time to start applying for financial aid. In the past, students and their families could turn in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) starting Jan. 1 of the year they’ll need the aid, but that date has been moved up.

It’s coming up quickly, too. For the 2017-18 academic year, people can turn in the FAFSA as early as Oct. 1, 2016. That’s in less than 3 months.

Why So Early?

Before we get into the specifics of this change, it’s important to point out why you’d want to turn in the FAFSA so early. Figuring out how you’re paying for college is one of those “the sooner, the better” kind of things. Though the application has “federal” in the name, states and schools also use the FAFSA to dole out financial aid, and every state and school has different ways of doing that. Some distribute aid on a first-come, first-served basis, so the longer you wait to turn in your FAFSA, the lower your chances of receiving assistance.

With that sort of pressure, you’d think college-bound people (or their parents) would greet the stroke of midnight with a toast of “Happy New Year! But first, FAFSA.” It doesn’t tend to happen that way, for a few reasons. First, a lot of people don’t realize how important it is in getting financial aid, or they assume they won’t qualify for aid, so they don’t bother with the paperwork. (Insert “you won’t know if you never try” cliche here.) In addition to the common mistakes of not knowing deadlines or underestimating the importance of the FAFSA, people put it off because they think they won’t have all the information they need to complete it until after they’ve filed their taxes.

For example: The FAFSA for the 2016-17 school year required applicants to enter their income information from the 2015 tax year. The deadline for submitting your 2015 income tax return was April 18, 2016. At that point, the FAFSA deadline in many states had passed, or states had already awarded all available aid. How could an application that requires 2015 tax information come due before your 2015 taxes, you ask? You can estimate your financial information on the FAFSA, allowing you to turn in the application before you file your taxes, which is something a lot of people may not realize.

Yes, it’s confusing, which brings us to the new policies coming in a few months.

What Changed?

For the 2017-18 academic year, students and their families will use their financial information from the 2015 tax year to fill out the FAFSA. The idea is that this will make it easier to fill out the form earlier. It also allows more people to take advantage of the IRS Data Retrieval tool. It transfers your tax information to the FAFSA, but because many people have traditionally filled out the FAFSA before completing their taxes, that tool hasn’t been as helpful as it could be.

“This will simplify the FAFSA, cutting about a page of questions from the form,” Mark Kantrowitz, said in an email to Credit.com. Kantrowitz is a financial aid expert and publisher and vice president of strategy at Cappex, an online platform for researching colleges and scholarships. “Also, any data element that is transferred unmodified from the IRS will not be subject to verification … This is especially important for low-income students, who often have difficulty completing verification.”

What You Need to Know Before October

The Education Department recommends filling out the FAFSA online, but you can also fill out a PDF version (you submit that through the mail) or request a paper form be sent to you. You also need a federal student aid ID (FSA ID) to sign your FAFSA, and it can take up to 3 days after registering for your FSA ID before you can use it to sign your application.

You still don’t need to have filed your taxes in order to fill out the FAFSA (though it’s easier that way, with the IRS Data Retrieval tool), and you also don’t have to know where you’re going to school. You can list a college on your FAFSA, if you want them to receive your FAFSA, even if you haven’t yet decided if you’re applying there. Keep in mind you have to fill out the FAFSA every year you’re applying for aid, as well, so for people who have gone through this process before, now you can start it earlier.

“The switch to prior-prior year also increases the amount of time available to apply for financial aid, from 18 months to 21 months,” Kantrowitz said. He said he hoped the earlier availability of the form would lead to more low-income students filing their FAFSAs early, consequently allowing them to qualify for more state aid.

Changes to how people apply for federal student aid hardly solves the burden of rising education costs and the ever-growing student loan debt in the U.S., but they simplify a process that many people find intimidating.

Of course, paying for college goes beyond this single form. Figuring out how much you can afford to spend (and borrow) to get a degree can be really tricky, but it’s important that students and their families consider the future cost of these decisions. Student loans have a significant impact on borrowers’ credit scores (you can see just how much by reviewing two of your free credit scores each month on Credit.com), and falling behind on loan payments can seriously damage your financial stability.

creditdotcom

Article courtesy of Credit.com, Christine DiGangi – July 19, 2016