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CFCU Blog

  • Equifax data breach

    Sep 08, 2017
    Equifax, one of the big three credit bureaus, announced yesterday that a data breach within their systems may have affected 143 million Americans, potentially compromising Social Security numbers, birth dates, physical addresses, and some driver's license numbers.

    The investigation is still ongoing, but Equifax reported that the breach also jeopardized credit card numbers for roughly 209,000 consumers and dispute documents with personal identifying information--dispute information, copies of driver's licenses and other IDs--for approximately 182,000 consumers.

    Where can I find out if my information was compromised?


    Equifax has set up an incident website where consumers can can learn more and check whether they’ve been impacted by the breach. Consumers will be asked to provide their last name and last six digits of their Social Security number. Based on that information, they'll get a message indicating whether their information may have been impacted. 

    All consumers will then be given the option to enroll in TrustedID Premier, a 3-bureau credit monitoring service (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) operated by Equifax. (If you wish to enroll, please note that Equifax will not provide a reminder, so you will need to write down your enrollment date.) Note that the website may have spotty availability for a day or two as it receives a lot of traffic. If it is not working when you visit, you may wish to try again later.

    What else can I do?

    From CO-OP Financial Services:

    • Reset account passwords, PIN codes and other log-in credentials on financial accounts that may be vulnerable.
    • Establish multiple-authentication protocols for financial accounts and email, when possible

    From our partners at BALANCE:

    • You may consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent charges from occurring on existing accounts.
    • Monitor existing credit card and financial institution accounts closely for charges that are not recognized.
    • You may also consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name is really you.

    BALANCE is also offering a free Identity Theft Solutions webinar on Wednesday, September 20th from 2-3 pm PST. Register for the webinar here.

     
    More Resources

     

  • Press Release: Disaster Relief Response to Hurricane Harvey

    Aug 31, 2017


    DISASTER RELIEF RESPONSE TO HURRICANE HARVEY

    WASHINGTON – In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Congressional Federal Credit Union is offering a variety of Disaster Relief programs and resources to members and eligible non-members who may be affected in the Gulf Coast region. These offerings have been designed to meet both immediate and long-term financial needs in the wake of a natural disaster:

          •     Payment deferment on existing loans
          •     Line-of-credit limit increases
          •     Waiving early certificate withdrawal penalties
          •     Relief line of credit
          •     Suspension of automatic payments, transfers, and DBOs
          •     Personal loans
          •     Financial coaching

    “We recognize that this storm may have caused great personal hardship and financial stress to hundreds of our members” said Mark Lobato, Vice President of Service and Solutions. “It’s very important to us to reach out with every tool at our disposal to help them get back on their feet.”


    Anyone looking to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath can consider looking into organizations providing on-the-ground assistance:

          •     Red Cross: www.redcross.org/donate/hurricane-harvey
          •     Salvation Army: www.helpsalvationarmy.org
          •     United Way: www.unitedwayhouston.org/flood/flood-donation/

     

    Congressional Federal Credit Union was founded in 1953 to serve the U.S. House of Representatives and its family members. The organization has grown to serve all employees of the U.S. House of Representatives, Architect of the Capitol, U.S. Capitol Police and over 120 select employee groups throughout the Washington area.

    #   #   #


    Hurricane Harvey Press Release 8.31.17 PDF
  • CO-OP Shared Branch Network Overtakes Big Banks

    Aug 17, 2017
    The CO-OP Shared Branch network that Congressional Federal is a part of is providing convenience that even big banks can't beat.

    "The CO-OP Shared Branch network has passed Chase in number of branch offices, making the credit union cooperative the second largest network of financial institution branches in the country," CUInsight reported in August.

    CO-OP Shared Branch network is 2nd largest in US

    "The shared branch network enables members to enter the branch of any participating credit union and conduct their business as if they were in their own home branch," the article said. 

    “Shared branching is to credit union members what Uber is to passengers looking for a nearby ride,” said Todd Clark, President/CEO, CO-OP Financial Services. “It’s the best example there is of why credit unions are different than banks – they share! Around 1,800 of the 6,100 U.S. credit unions share their branches. In addition, more than 3,000 are part of our CO-OP ATM network. When you couple-in digital services, credit unions offer a financial ecosystem that is convenient, accessible and a positive force in communities.”


    Read the rest of the article here.
  • Four Tips to Boost Your Credit Score

    Jul 05, 2017

    First thing’s first: there is no magic solution to raising your credit score overnight.

     

    If you have a low score due to, say, bankruptcy (which can affect your credit for up to seven years), boosting it requires a long-term plan of consistent on-time payments, and other responsible credit practices.

    However, a low score due to a lack of credit can jump much more quickly. Check it out:

    Fix errors on your credit reports

    According to the Federal Trade Commission, one in four credit reports contains small errors, which can affect your score. Errors might include false information attributed to you because of identity theft or just a simple mix up, accounts that don’t belong to you, and more.

    If the mistake negatively affected your score, you can expect it to improve in approximately 60 days after correction, reportedly.

    Pay off credit cards every month

    If you pay off your debts, you’ll see your score go up. That doesn’t mean you should run out and buy things you don’t need, however. Instead, charge expenses like bills and gas (things you already pay for in cash) on your credit cards, and pay them off every month.

    If you’re struggling to cover your existing debt, create a debt management plan to free up extra cash.

    Stay away from your credit limits

    Paying down the debt will improve your creditworthiness, and help your “credit utilization” (the amount of debt you have relative to your credit card limits). When you get closer to your limits, you reduce your available credit, which is bad for your score.

    So bring down your debt to an acceptable amount as defined by the credit bureaus, and your score will improve.

    Set up automatic payments

    Your credit score takes a hit with every late payment. That’s because payment history comprises 35% of your score. If you struggle to remember when money is due, set up automatic payments with your credit cards. It’s an easy way to stay punctual and—barring other major marks against your credit—turn your score around in a relatively short amount of time.

    More Resources

    Watch our Credit Basics webinar for more advice on how to build, manage, and improve your credit.



    Article courtesy of BALANCE.
  • 2017 Congressional Baseball Game for Charity

    Jun 23, 2017

    Since 1909, the Congressional Baseball Game for Charity has been a beloved summer Hill event when Congress moves its work from the floor to the field to support local youth organizations. This year, the charitable mission of bipartisan cooperation took on an even deeper meaning. Players, spectators, and well-wishers nationwide rallied to honor the five Capitol Hill community members wounded at a team practice on Wednesday, June 14th: Senator Steve Scalise (R-La.), staffer Zach Barth, lobbyist Matt Mika, and Capitol Police Special Agents David Bailey and Crystal Griner.


    Teams pray. Reuters: Joshua Roberts
    Reuters / Joshua Roberts via CBS News

    The evening was full of moving tributes to the wounded and to all everyday heroes in the Capitol Police force. Players gathered on the field before the game for a moment of silence and a group prayer. Thunderous cheers erupted when Mr. Bailey made a surprise appearance to throw out the first pitch. Staffers waved signs reading “SCALISE STRONG” and "Capitol Police M.V.P.” And after the Democrats won 11-2, Democrat manager Rep. Mike Doyle (Pa.) presented Republican manager Joe Barton (Texas) with the trophy to put in Rep. Scalise’s office until he returns to Congress.


    Getty photo: Crowd signs
    Getty via Politico

    Thursday’s game broke records in both attendance and donations: 24,959 fans helped raise $1.5 million dollars. The New York Times reported that ticket sales for the game “were higher than nearly every other major league game.” Proceeds went to the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington, Washington Literacy Center, and Washington Nationals Dream Foundation. Organizers added the Capitol Police Memorial Fund after Wednesday’s events.  


    Getty photo: Stadium viewGetty via Politico

    It’s an honor to sponsor this event every year. It’s a unique Capitol Hill tradition, and more importantly, it’s one that serves kids in our local community. But the Hill community extends far beyond the bounds of the beltway, and that connection felt particularly profound—and particularly strong—this time around.

    Players lined up from 1st base to 3rd base
    The view from our seats.
  • 2017 Wright Patman Scholarship: Winners Showcase

    May 31, 2017

    Scholarship-email-banner
    Contest ended March 31st, 2017.

    This spring, we awarded three $3,000 scholarships to graduating high school seniors based on their academic standing and their responses to an essay question:   

    How would you promote financial literacy among your peers?

    2017 saw a record number of entries for our annual scholarship. The Board selected the winners for their thoughtful explorations of how they've learned fiscal responsibility and how others can start learning early, too.

    We're proud to have the authors as members, and we wish them all the best in their bright academic futures and beyond.

    Read the winning essays!


    Essay 1

    "Wright Patman Scholarship Application"


    When I received my acceptance letter from Yale University, I dropped to the floor and screamed at the top of my lungs. I had worked for years for this moment, and I was overjoyed. I floated in a bubble of pride and happiness for a week, until my financial aid package arrived. Seeing the cost of tuition—$60,000 a year—knocked the wind out of me. I was absolutely crushed.

    I allowed myself to panic for 24 hours, and then I got to work. I scoured dozens of scholarship websites searching for ones I was eligible for. I spent hours writing essays and compiling recommendations, tweaking my resume and competing with thousands of other kids for the handful of lucrative merit scholarships. It has been exhausting and stressful, and it's completely overwhelming for most of my peers. Luckily, I have a unique advantage.

    As a junior, I was hired by a local scholarship program, the Pittsburgh Promise. I spent my summer learning about financial aid specific to post-secondary education, and I learned more than I ever had in school. In one week of training I was taught about differentiating between types of loans and interest rates, how to appeal to a school for scholarships, the average debt for graduates, and the earning potential for students based on the number of years of education they receive. My work currently includes talking to my peers about scholarship applications and the financial aid process in general. Every conversation is a reminder that our system of developing financial literacy is flawed at best and nonexistent at worst. Students don't know where to look for scholarships, don't know how to compare aid letters, and don't know why going to college is worth it when their student loans will be so staggering.

    In my experience, I've found that financial aid information is scattered and extremely difficult to sort through. A sophisticated database of scholarships would be an incredibly useful online tool for students. For example, a student could filter through options by income level, aid amount, and deadline. Programming a search engine that could do the work of clicking through hundreds of links in seconds would help give more opportunities to millions of kids and their families.

    Through the Pittsburgh Promise, I've conducted financial literacy nights for students and their families. At such events, I introduce people to scholarship programs as well as help explain the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. I've also conducted presentations for each grade in my school to explain the basics of the financial aid process, but one assembly every semester is not enough. I believe that making better and more accessible tools will help every student achieve their full potential.



    Essay 2

    "Promoting Financial Literacy"


    Financial literacy is an integral part of living in the modern world, and is more important than ever as my peers and I enter into the financial world. As I conclude my senior year in high school, one of the most important lessons I learned in JROTC was to lead by example. If I am financially literate myself, I can help others to understand the importance of the financial world and to know how it works. I have recently opened a credit union savings account, and in the future will open an IRA for retirement savings. Since I am preparing for these now, I will be able to help my peers in the future to navigate potential pitfalls and help them, as they help me, on how to succeed in our financial endeavors throughout our lives.

    Among peers, it is extremely important to encourage discussion, especially with subjects some might not be familiar with. Being able to bring up discussions on this topic with my friends will allow us to explain complex ideas and bring to light different approaches to the same problem in order to find the best possible solution. Collaborating with a group can bring forth ideas that otherwise would never surface.

    Along with a group discussion program, I would set up both a financial literacy club and a mock investment club. A financial literacy club will allow me to educate other students on the importance of finance and the knowledge needed to understand it. A mock investment club is an interactive way to introduce students to the stock market and to understand the best ways and the right places to invest.

    One of the most important tools to use in learning financial literacy is to question others who have a great deal of experience, both positive and negative, in managing their finances. I would encourage other students to meet with their parents, grandparents, professors, and anyone else who has been in the financial world for a long period of time. Experience is one of the best teachers, and if I encourage students to speak with others, those students could pass on the knowledge they learned to others.

    I would also encourage my peers to follow Motley Fool, listen to their podcasts, and use the tools they provide. My father is always listening to their podcasts about financial issues. My peers are familiar with podcasting and could gain a lot of information about financial literacy in this way. I'd encourage my peers to sign up to the Motley Fool Facebook page and follow many of their correspondents on Twitter.

    In a world so influenced by money, financial literacy is a must if you want to succeed. As many students do not have an understanding of this, it is important to encourage it among my peers, so they can encourage it around others. Though there is much I can still learn financially, I am glad I can make an impact on what other people think and help them to become more literate themselves.



    Essay 3

    "Wright Patman Scholarship Essay: How Would You Promote Financial Literacy Among Your Peers?"


    When I was fifteen years old, I got my first paycheck job at a landscaping company. A member of the project crew, I was to work on installation of decks, patios, garden beds, and foliage. I quickly found how hard the work was, especially being the youngest employee by a margin of seven years. By the end of the summer, I had averaged a forty hour work week, learned how to operate a Bobcat, and had more money in my bank account than ever before, but each dollar seemed so much more valuable.

    This was the first of many summer jobs. In later years, I would work at three different restaurants, a summer camp, and a landscaping center. Each summer, I drop off cover letters and resumes for a variety of prospective job opportunities, and work over forty hours a week consistently. From my work experience, I have obtained a value for money which most my age do not possess. My parents have never given me an allowance or any spending money, so when friends decide to go out to eat or see a show, I must decide when and how to use the money I have painstakingly earned at a minimum wage job.

    My junior year of high school, I traveled to Europe to live and study abroad in Zaragoza, Spain with thirty five hundred dollars in my bank account. This was my funding for the year. All my expenses were to be paid for with this money I had made the summer prior, working as a busboy for nine dollars an hour. Halfway through the year, the students were granted the privilege of "Independent Travel," essentially trips throughout Europe free of staff or parent supervision. This was my biggest financial challenge yet. On each trip, I was faced with the responsibility of covering the expenses of a train, hotel, food, activities, and all other travel costs on my own dime. While my friends could simply depend on the bottomless ease of parental funding back home, I was forced to meticulously select the cheapest and most economical ticket, dinner, or hostel bed.

    By supporting myself fiscally for the last five years, I have learned a lot about the value of money. Developing frugal traveling habits in Spain, I came to understand that sometimes, traveling cheaply can lead to a better experience. Explaining this to traveling companions, we grasped the best ways to vacation on a budget while still enjoying ourselves and experiencing each city to the fullest. Taking the extra ten minutes to search for a cheap train ticket, make our own breakfast with bread and peanut butter, or finding a backpackers hostel instead of a room at the Marriott let us stretch out each dollar a little further. By sharing the positive working experiences I have obtained, I can encourage peers to seek summertime employment. From this, my peers will shift from viewing money as a consistent thirty dollar a week allowance from parents, and rather a valuable asset that is made through hard work and spent carefully.