Heather Dewey

Reviewing Random Acts of Kindness 2023

Throughout the month of April (and start of May), Bank Five Nine employees celebrated Community Banking Month and Power of Community Week by “paying it forward” to local citizens and organizations in the communities we serve! From dropping off flowers to local nursing homes, donating time and supplies to local animal shelters, surprising customers with free lunch, buying coffee for patrons of a community coffee shop, providing meals to local fire and police departments, to delivering surprises to hospital patients and staff, Bank Five Nine had a lot of fun demonstrating the commitment we have to our communities through many random acts of kindness! If you have a moment, we encourage you to scroll through the photos (maybe even get a few ideas yourself to do a random act of kindness!)

Making Lives Better Through Random Acts Contest
If someone has made your life better in the recent past, make sure to comment on the pinned Bank Five Nine’s Facebook page monthly contest post! We want to encourage kindness and positivity in our communities, so we’re asking you to share how someone has made your life better recently! It could be something big or small, as long as it has made a positive impact on your day! (Even as simple as someone holding the door open for you on your way out of a coffee shop. 😊) At the end of each month, we’ll select a winner from the comment section and ‘treat’ them for sharing! We will pin this post to the top of our page, so be sure to check it out and share the love throughout the month. Click here to get to our Bank Five Nine Facebook Page.

What are ACH Payments and How Do They Work?

Have you ever received money in your bank account or paid your phone bill online? Chances are, you used ACH payments without even realizing it! But what exactly are ACH payments, and how do they work? In this blog, we’ll break down the basics!

First, what is “ACH”? ACH stands for Automated Clearing House, which is a secure, electronic network used by banks and other financial institutions to process a variety of transactions. These transactions can include direct deposits, online bill payments, and more.

When you receive money through direct deposit or send money through an online payment service, the funds are transferred through the ACH network. This process typically takes one to two business days to complete with the exception of holidays (holiday submission timelines here). ACH payments are safe, reliable, and efficient, making them a popular choice for businesses and consumers alike.

So, how do ACH payments work? Let’s use an example to explain the process. Imagine you’re paying your monthly cell phone bill online using your bank account. Here are the steps involved:

  • You log in to your online banking account and enter the payment information, including the phone company /provider name and your account number.
  • Your bank sends the payment information to the ACH network, which processes the transaction.
  • The phone provider/company receives the payment from the ACH network and applies it to your account.

It’s that simple! ACH payments are convenient because you don’t need to write a check or visit a physical location to make a payment. They’re also secure because the ACH network uses advanced encryption technology to protect your sensitive information.

ACH payments are a safe and efficient way to send and receive money electronically. They’re used by businesses and individuals to process a variety of transactions, from direct deposits to online bill payments. So the next time you use your bank account to pay a bill or receive money, you’ll know how the ACH network is working behind the scenes to make it all happen.  Learn more about Bank Five Nine ACH User Information here.

Flowchart of how ACH payments work

Fun Games to Teach Kids About Money

Teaching children about money is an important part of their financial education. One way to make learning about money fun is through playing games. Here are some fun money games for kids that can help teach them about financial literacy:

Monopoly Junior: This classic board game has a junior version that is perfect for younger children. It teaches them about money management, budgeting, and basic math skills. Monopoly has a bunch of themed game boards too!

The Game of Life: This board game simulates life events and teaches children about financial planning, decision-making, and risk management.

Money Bingo: Create a bingo card with different denominations of money and have children match them to actual coins and bills.

Savings Scavenger Hunt: Hide coins or bills around the house or yard and have children search for them. Once they find them, encourage them to save the money in a piggy bank or savings account.

Grocery Store Scavenger Hunt: Take children to the grocery store and challenge them to find the best deals and bargains. This will help them learn about comparison shopping and making smart purchasing decisions.

Lemonade Stand: Help children set up a lemonade stand and have them learn about entrepreneurship, profit and loss, and customer service.

Stock Market Game: Create a pretend stock market and have children invest pretend money in different stocks. This will help them learn about risk and return, diversification, and the importance of research.

Online Financial Literacy Games: Many websites offer online games that teach children about money management and financial literacy. Some popular options include Financial Football, Peter Pig’s Money Counter, and The Mint.

Money Jars: Give children three jars labeled “spend,” “save,” and “give.” Whenever they receive money, encourage them to divide it up into the jars according to their priorities.

DIY Board Games: Have children create their own board games that incorporate money management skills, such as budgeting, saving, and investing.

There are many fun and creative ways to teach children about financial literacy through games. By incorporating these games into their playtime, you can help children develop important money skills that will benefit them for a lifetime!

What is the Difference Between a Credit Card and a Debit Card?

Are you confused about the difference between a credit card and a debit card? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! While both types of cards are used to make purchases, there are some key differences between the two. In this blog, we’ll break down the similarities, differences and pros and cons between credit and debit cards to help you decide which one is right for you.
First, let’s talk about how these cards work.

A debit card is linked to your checking account (click here for ‘what is a checking account and how does it work’), so when you make a purchase, the money is withdrawn directly from your account balance. This means that you can only spend what you have in the bank, and you won’t have to worry about accumulating debt or interest charges.

A credit card, on the other hand, works like a loan from a bank or financial institution. When you make a purchase with a credit card, you’re essentially borrowing money that you’ll need to pay back later, typically with interest. Credit cards come with a credit limit, which is the maximum amount you can borrow at any given time. Your credit limit is determined by factors such as your credit score, income, and credit history.

Now let’s dig into the pros and cons of each!

Debit cards:
• Convenience: Debit cards are accepted at most retailers and can be used to withdraw cash from ATMs.
• No interest: Unlike credit cards, you won’t accrue interest on your purchases with a debit card.
• Budgeting: Since a debit card draws from your checking account, it can be easier to keep track of your spending and stick to a budget.

• Limited fraud protection: Debit cards offer less fraud protection than credit cards. If your card is stolen or used fraudulently, it may take longer to get your money back.
• No rewards: Debit cards typically don’t offer rewards programs, so you won’t be earning cash back or other perks on your purchases.
• Overdraft fees: If you overdraw your checking account with a debit card, you may be hit with a fee.

Credit cards:
• Rewards: Many credit cards offer rewards programs that let you earn points, miles, or cashback on your purchases. Depending on the card you choose, you may be able to earn rewards on everything from groceries to travel.
• Protection: Credit cards offer better fraud protection than debit cards. If your credit card is stolen or used fraudulently, you can report it to your issuer and dispute the charges.
• Building credit: Using a credit card responsibly can help you build a positive credit history, which can be important if you want to apply for loans or mortgages in the future.

• High interest rates: Credit cards often come with high interest rates, especially if you carry a balance from month to month. This can add up quickly and lead to a lot of debt if you’re not careful.
• Fees and surcharges: Some credit cards come with annual fees, balance transfer fees, or other charges. (Make sure you read that small print before signing up for a card!) It’s not super common, but there are some retailers that may also charge you a little bit extra for using a credit card, so it may be worth it to pay with debit.
• It’s easy to overspend: Credit cards can be a slippery slope if you’re not careful. It’s easy to rack up debt if you’re not keeping track of your spending. Also, if you carry a balance for too long or miss payments, it can negatively impact your credit score.

So, which one should you use – credit or debit? It really depends on your financial situation and spending habits. If you’re someone who struggles with overspending or wants to stick to a strict budget, a debit card might be a better fit. But if you’re someone who travels frequently or wants to earn rewards for your purchases, a credit card might be a better option.

At the end of the day, both credit and debit cards have their pros and cons. It’s important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each option and choose the one that best aligns with your financial goals and lifestyle. Some people carry both – one credit card and one debit card in their wallet.

Budget Friendly Easter Basket Ideas

Homemade treats: Instead of buying expensive pre-made treats, consider making your own Easter-themed snacks like Rice Krispie treats or homemade cookies.

Dollar store finds: Head to your local dollar store to find inexpensive Easter basket fillers like small toys, stickers, and coloring books.

Art supplies: Fill your child’s Easter basket with art supplies like crayons, markers, and paint sets. You can often find these items at discount stores or in bulk online.

Books: Consider filling your child’s Easter basket with a few age-appropriate books. Check out your local library or thrift store for gently used books at a fraction of the cost of new ones. (Sometimes you can even find brand new books there as well!)

Outdoor toys: With the arrival of spring, outdoor toys like bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and jump ropes are perfect additions to any Easter basket.

DIY craft kits: Create your own Easter-themed craft kits using materials like pipe cleaners, felt, and pom poms. You can find instructions for simple crafts online and put together the supplies yourself.

Instead of buying pre-made Easter grass for the basket, make your own by shredding colorful paper. This is a great way to save money and create a unique look for each basket. You can use old newspapers, magazines, or even tissue paper to create your Easter grass.

Personalized items: Consider adding a personal touch to your child’s Easter basket by including items like a personalized water bottle or a customized t-shirt.

What is a Checking Account and How Does It Work?

Are you curious about how checking accounts work? Well, you’re in the right place! Let’s dive in.

Checking accounts have several features that can help you easily manage your finances.

  • Convenience:  Bank in person, online, or through a mobile device
  • Security:  Set up fraud alerts, create a PIN for your debit card, and have your deposits insured by government agencies protect your money
  • Flexibility: Make payments with checks, debit cards, or a digital wallet or mobile payment app

How is a checking account different from a savings account?

A checking account is designed for everyday transactions, such as paying bills, making purchases with a debit card, and withdrawing cash from an ATM. These accounts typically have no limits on the number of transactions you can make and allow for easy access to your funds. Checking accounts also usually come with a debit card that you can use to make purchases, and many banks offer online banking services to help you manage your account.

A savings account is designed for longer-term savings and typically offers higher interest rates than checking accounts. Savings accounts are ideal for saving money for specific goals, such as a down payment on a house or for a vacation. These accounts often have limits on the number of withdrawals you can make per month and may require a minimum balance to avoid fees. To view Bank Five Nine saving account options, click here.

How does a checking account work?

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how a checking account works:

  • You deposit money into your checking account, either by depositing cash, a check, or transferring funds from another account.
  • You can use your debit card to make purchases at stores, restaurants, and online retailers. When you make a purchase, the money is deducted from your account balance.
  • You can also withdraw cash from ATMs using your debit card. Depending on your bank, you may be charged a fee for using an out-of-network ATM. (Bank Five Nine has over 600 ATMS in network: ATM Access Locations – Wisconsin Bankers Association (communitybankers.org))
  • If you need to pay bills or make other payments, you can write a check from your checking account. When you write a check, you’re essentially telling your bank to transfer money from your account to the person or company you’re paying. (Yep! People still write checks. They may seem like ancient history, but they’re still a useful tool in managing your finances! Click here to see how to write one if you don’t know how!)
  • Most banks, including Bank Five Nine, offer online banking services that let you manage your checking account from the comfort of your own home. You can check your account balance, review your transactions, and even pay your bills online.

Types of checking accounts:

There are several types of checking accounts that you may consider for your financial needs. Keep in mind that features and fees can vary depending on the financial institution and account type. Here is a brief overview of the common types of checking accounts you may encounter!

  • Personal Checking: This is the catch-all term for different types of checking accounts used for personal banking.
  • Business Checking: If you are a business owner, this type of account can help you keep your personal and business finances separate.
  • Student or Custodial Checking: If you are a minor, these accounts can be opened without credit or banking history, but the joint account-holding parent/guardian might need to qualify.
  • Joint Checking: These accounts can be opened by two or more people who have joint ownership and are both responsible for any overdraft or penalty fees. Joint savings or checking account can make your financial life easier and less complicated if you manage your money with another person, such as a spouse or partner. Click here for our blog that talks all about joint checking!
  • Other types of checking accounts: click here for the checking account options that Bank Five Nine offers with a comparison chart!

 A checking account is an awesome tool for managing your finances. It gives you easy access to your money, online banking services, and a ton of other features that make managing your money a breeze. And with a little knowledge and a bit of responsibility, you can use your checking account to achieve financial success. You can also learn more about checking accounts in our Financial Education Center!

Spring Maintenance Checklist for Your Home

Routine home maintenance can help you avoid costly repairs and also help you budget for any future repairs or upgrades! Below you’ll find our Spring Home checklist for homeowners to keep your home in good shape.

  • Clean out gutters and downspouts.
  • Inspect caulking around doors and windows for damage or any notable wear.
  • Inspect your roof for any loose shingles and popped nails.
  • Inspect and get your lawn maintenance equipment in working order by sharpening dull blades, charging batteries and replacing old gas.
  • Clean your kitchen exhaust hood and air filter.
  • Safety check! Spring is a good time to review your fire escape plan with your family. It’s also a nice time to check the batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms and replace them if needed. 
  • Perform/schedule Spring HVAC maintenance to your home’s heating and cooling system. Spring maintenance can also prevent costly repair bills when your system runs more in the summer months.   
  • Clean your clothes dryer exhaust duct, damper, and space under the dryer.
  • Check for and repair any concrete or asphalt damages. Winter in Wisconsin can be harsh on driveways and walkways. Even if the crack is minor, if water gets inside of it and freezes during the cooler months, it will increase the crack and it will be a more expensive repair. It’s a good idea to repair the crack while it’s still small.

Spring is also a great time to get organized. Check out our blog on Budget Friendly Ways to Organize Your Home.

Holi-days of Giving 2022

Photo of people smiling at the Holidays of Giving event in Brookfield

During the final weeks of December, as part of our annual “Holi-Days of Giving” program, the branches of Bank Five Nine delivered much-needed holiday cheer to thirteen individuals in Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington Counties. Bank Five Nine collected and received hundreds of nominations during November 2022. We want to thank everyone who nominated someone this year for the program, as many amazing nominations were received!

Each recipient received holiday gifts, valued up to $500 from Bank Five Nine. Some of the chosen recipients included a 9-year-old boy with a rare genetic disease called Fanconi Anemia, a six-year-old little girl with cancer, an urgent care nurse, a 13 year old boy who was recently diagnosed with not 1 but 3 autoimmune diseases MOG-AD, a dad who had two heart transplants, a family in need that could use some new tires for their vehicle, and a woman whose sister has sister is having dementia and would love to go visit her loved one out of state.

As a true community bank, our mission is to ‘Make Lives Better’. We are so thankful we can bring some joy through this wonderful annual program we do here at Bank Five Nine.

8 Ways to Save Money on Gas

Gas prices have been on the rise for months, and it’s widely known that this has not been kind to wallets everywhere. If you’re looking for some ways to pay less for gas, we’ve compiled a few ways to help.

Rewards Programs
Major grocery chains like Pick N’ Save (Kroger) offer reward programs that can help you save at the pump. Members can earn fuel points for money spent on groceries and general merchandise. Example: Pick ‘n Save and Metro Market customers are eligible to save up to $1 per gallon of fuel for every 1,000 points redeemed at participating BP gas stations.

Become a Member 
Take advantage of warehouse club memberships. In most areas, warehouse clubs also sell gasoline, including Sam’s Club and Costco, and the costs generally beat local competitors by anywhere from 5 cents to 25 cents per gallon. Although a membership at a warehouse club can cost you anywhere from $45 to $60 per year, you can make this back in savings from the reduced gas prices – and also have access to many other benefits of cost savings with this membership.

Stay Light
The more weight you carry, the more energy and fuel is needed to move your vehicle. So keep your emergency kit, but remove any of the other unnecessary items in your car that you don’t need daily.

Gas Trackers and Price Comparison Tools
There are several websites and phone apps that allow you to quickly check gas prices at stations near you. They use your current location and list gas station locations nearby in order of price, so you can choose the lowest priced station at which to refill. (Remember not to drive out of your way to get to the lowest price!) Here are a few of these price comparison tools to look into to get you started: GasBuddy, Upside, Gas Guru, Waze, Dash, and MapQuest. Organizations like AAA and even some local news stations also allow you to check gas prices in your area on their websites.

Map Your Drive and Combine Errands
Obviously the best way to spend less on gas is to use less gas. Planning a route ahead of time and avoiding backtracking will make your next journey fuel-efficient. Instead of running out every time you need something, schedule time once a week to complete all your errands at once. Having a mile and a minute off a frequent route you take once a week can save an hour and several hundred dollars over the course of a year.

Set That Cruise Button
If you do a lot of highway driving, it pays to use your cruise control button.  Not only does it help to reduce the wear and tear of the engine and transmission systems, setting the cruise control and staying at a steady speed has been shown to save on fuel usage (plus you can make sure you don’t go over the speed limit).  Accelerating slowly and coasting more are not only safer ways to drive, but they can be cost-efficient driving habits as well.

Check Your Tire Pressure
Confirm your tire pressure is set according to your car’s manufacturer recommendation. Studies show that under-inflated tires result in more fuel being burned per mile as opposed to when the tires are properly inflated.

Proper Maintenance
If you have been putting off your scheduled maintenance, now is the time to schedule an appointment. Poor car maintenance can drop fuel efficiency.  Along this line, make sure you are using your manufacturer’s recommended grade of oil. The wrong grade of motor oil can cost you 4 to 9 cents per gallon, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

If you do try a few of the ways above, check to see how much lower you have gotten your monthly gas budget! It’s nice and motivating to see that dollar amount drop.

5 Ways to Boost Your Financial Health (Amidst COVID-19)

Financial decisions can feel complex and hard even under normal circumstances. If the current  market volatility has you questioning what are the “right” actions you should take now, you are not  alone. Here are five concrete ways for you to jumpstart your financial wellness in the wake of the  novel coronavirus. 

Don’t touch your face or your 401k 

Time for some facts. Markets fluctuate over time, and returns often come with risks. While  COVID-19 is certainly adding unprecedented volatility to the stock market, it is critical to take a  long-term view when it comes to investing. 
Chances are that when you set up your 401k or IRA you picked a diverse asset portfolio, and  selected a monthly contribution that you were comfortable with. Trust that you picked the right  option, and stay the course. When considering your retirement, ​the strategy you had in place in  February should be your continued strategy for the months ahead.​ Take a deep breath and trust  that the market will bounce back. 
When it comes to investing in your retirement, the best thing to do is invest regularly and aim to  have a monthly contribution of 10-15% of your total income.  
Have more questions about saving for retirement, and finding a plan that’s right for you? Check out our digital financial resources. ​ 

Build Emergency Savings 

Unexpected moments like these are precisely why an emergency fund of 3-6 months take-home  pay is so critical. If you have an emergency fund to tap into, great job! If you are among the ​40% of  Americans who would find an unexpected $400 expense challenging to pay​, know that you are not  alone, and there is always time to build your savings. 
To start, dive into your finances from the previous month. Take a hard look at non-essential  spending. Eliminating even small expenses, especially monthly membership fees, can quickly add  up over time. After you have cancelled or paused any non-essential recurring payments, create a  budget tracker to identify where and how you spent your money. How much were you spending  on dining out? Ridesharing? Online shopping? Once you have that breakdown, you can more  accurately set goals around what you need to start, stop, and continue doing in order to build your emergency savings.  

If you’re new to the world of budgeting, the ​50 / 30 / 20 rule​ is a great place to start. Set a goal of  how much money you want to contribute to your emergency savings each month, and don’t forget  to celebrate when you meet (or exceed!) your goal. 
For additional help with how to approach emergency savings, explore our online resources.

Refinance a Loan 

March 2020 marked a period of extreme market volatility, to say the least. To stabilize and protect  the economy, the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to record lows. These decade-low  interest rates could save you money if you choose to refinance your mortgage, private student  loans, or other debts. Keep in mind that federal and private student loans are different, and you  could be losing benefits by adjusting your federal loan. 
Traditional advice is to refinance when rates are 1-2% below your current rate. Make sure to keep  an eye on your closing costs, so you make a decision that takes all costs into consideration. 

Time Your Taxes 

For any procrastinators that have put off doing their taxes, good news – U.S. taxpayers have a  three-month extension on the deadline to file their federal tax return due to the novel coronavirus  pandemic. Tax Day has been pushed from April 15th to July 15th, 2020. Most states have matched  the July 15th deadline, but ​check here​ to determine your state’s filing deadline. 
If you are among the many Americans who typically receive a tax refund — that is, you paid more  taxes to your state or federal government (through payroll withholding, for example) than your  actual tax liability, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is advising that you file your taxes earlier so  that you can get your money sooner. 
Click here to learn more about taxes with this short, interactive overview. ​

Make a Plan and Regain Control 

You can only control what you can control. The good news is that your financial decisions and  behaviors are 100% under your control.  
Use this time at home to reset any riskier financial behaviors. This is a great time to start building  healthy financial habits, while the lure of expensive purchases like events, sporting games, travel,  fancy restaurants, etc. are off the table. Find your money zen – what spending habits make you  happy? What do you spend money on that you have no memory of a month later? Which purchases  sit on a shelf collecting dust or cluttering your space?  

Take the time to build a budget and stick to it. Set up regular monthly investments. Build your  emergency savings fund. Use this time as a bootcamp to become a top-notch steward of your  financial present and future. You’ve got this. 
To continue upskilling your financial capability, visit our financial education center, ​for our full suite of educational content.

This article was developed in part by EVERFI, Inc., a resource of Bank Five Nine.