Monday, May 23, 2016

EMV Chip Cards are Here: Now What?

The new EMV chip debit and credit cards are here. That being said, how should you change how you used your new EMV chip for transactions? The security value of these new cards is only realized when the EMV card is being used by an EMV card reader by the merchant accepting the card for payment. Much of the counterfeit card fraud that has taken place over the past few years occurred because of a card swipe where the data was stolen at some point by hackers. Cards that are swiped for the authorization do NOT transmit that card information in the most secure environment. There are many merchants and retailers out there right now who have the EMV chip reader at their point-of-sale terminals but do not use them because they don’t have the technology implemented yet. So what does that mean? They ask you to swipe your EMV chip card for your transaction. This is defeating the purpose of the technology and expense of issuing EMV chip debit and credit cards. Merchants who utilize the EMV chip reader at the point-of-sale are doing their best to protect your personal card information. As consumers and holders of these EMV chip cards, it is in our best interest to transact business with those merchants and retailers who have functioning EMV chip card readers.

True, the liability does shift from the issuer (credit union in this case) to the merchant/retailer when the EMV chip reader technology is not being utilized. Does that really mean much to you though when your money has been taken out of your account from a counterfeit card transaction from a location five states away? It is an incredible inconvenience to have your card information hacked and money stolen. Initially, your money is gone and you don’t have a working debit or credit card anymore.

Consumers need to put pressure on the merchants and retailers to implement the EMV card readers at their point-of-sale terminals. Does the authorization process take slightly longer than a swiped card transaction? Yes, but that time is secure time and would greatly reduce the threat of your money being stolen at some point in the future. Ask the store manager why they aren’t doing all they can do to keep your card information as safe as possible. If you have two retailers and one has an operational EMV card reader and the other doesn’t, you would be wise to choose the first one.

So far in 2016, North Alabama Educators Credit Union members have seen just over $80,000 in fraudulent transactions due to counterfeited debit cards on data that was stolen from the merchant card swipe process. Let’s get away from the card swipe process at retailers and reduce card fraud for everyone! 

Monday, November 23, 2015

EMV Cards & Liability for Consumers

EMV stands for Europay, Visa, and Mastercard, the three companies that originally created the idea of the EMV chip card where card information is stored in a chip embedded in the front of the card. (Traditional debit and credit cards have the information stored on a magnetic stripe on the back of the card.). The authentication parameters with the EMV cards change with each transaction where the magnetic stripe cards maintain the same card information, thus making it much more difficult to counterfeit an EMV chip card. The technology is only beneficial for "card present" situations where the card is physically presented for a transaction and the merchant has the point-of-sale terminal that can communicate with the EMV card chip. Online Internet transactions would not have any additional security enhancements from the EMV chip cards. Verified by Visa or MasterCard's SecureCode are the best tools available to prevent online card fraud.

Card issuers are still in the process of issuing EMV chip cards and merchants are installing EMV point-of-sale terminals that can read the EMV chips. North Alabama Educators Credit Union will have a mass card EMV card reissue of all member debit cards in the spring of 2016. Roughly only 20% of merchants have installed the EMV chip readers at this point.

The focus of the EMV card technology was about reducing fraud and shifting liability. What does this mean to the consumer in terms of liability? In short, nothing should change from a liability standpoint. The liability shifts being discussed have been between the merchants and the card issuers who are the financial institutions. The credit union has not charged our membership for any portion of unauthorized charges even though VISA rules and government regulations allow for consumers being responsible for the first $50.00 per fraudulent incident for fraudulent charges. One concern that I have is if the liability for a fraudulent charge is shifted to the merchant, it would not surprise me to see that $50.00 cost be passed on to consumers, possibly more if the fraud is not reported promptly;
  • up to $500 if you fail to notify the bank within two business days after you realize the card is missing, but do notify the bank within 60 days after your bank statement is mailed to you listing the unauthorized withdrawals. 
A banking financial institution has an ongoing account relationship with a consumer. A retailer two states away does not share that same relationship so if they have liability for a fraudulent transaction, they will most certainly hold the consumer responsible for the first $50.00 in their reimbursements for unauthorized charges. Time will tell how the liability shifts between the merchants and the institutions will impact any costs passed on to the card consumer. If there were to be $50.00 fraud liability costs passed on to the members by the merchants, it would be guess that the credit union would absorb that $50.00 cost since we have already been doing so. Rest assured that many traditional banks out there would not be doing that. 

More information on our EMV cards to be issued in 2016 will be provided to our cardholders during the first quarter of 2016. In the meantime, member liability for unauthorized transactions still remains a $0.00 liability for our credit union members. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Weather Closings and Delays at NAECU

It has been predicted by multiple sources that the Tennessee Valley can expect a harsher winter this year due to changes associated with the El Nino weather patterns. Time will tell whether the forecasters are correct or not. One thing is for certain however in the Tennessee Valley - this area is not well suited to clear roads from winter weather events. Governmental budgets are stretched thin as they are so additional resources for winter weather events are pretty much non-existent. That translates to roads being impassable and officially closed under fairly minimal snow and ice events.
If roads are not safe or closed due to weather conditions, that means that our employees cannot travel safely to and from their own homes. Safety of our employees is the primary factor in determining our operating hours when dealing with weather events.

My decision in closing or delaying operating hours of the credit union is not made lightly. I never make a decision on a closing or delayed opening until at least the early morning of a day in question. There have been too many occasions where a winter weather event was expected the night before that did not produce the anticipated results. In order for the credit union to close or delay an opening, there must be active road problems taking place or a line of known winter weather coming that is causing driving problems in its path. We all know that tornadoes are possible throughout the year as well. We did close early on the tornado outbreak day of April 27, 2011 because of the high probability of damaging tornadoes which sadly did occur. Luckily our employees were home when the long track tornado took out the power grid and did so much damage in Morgan, Limestone, and Madison counties. Again, safety of our employees is our primary objective.

We are working on a phone app system where members could be alerted to changing office hours due to weather events. In the meantime, our web site's home page is updated as well as our social media pages on Facebook and Twitter. We send out an email message via Constant Contact to subscribers (no cost) to inform about any necessary office hour changes. To subscribe to our Constant Contact mailing list, CLICK HERE to provide you name and valid email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.  

Everyone should be weather aware. If there is anticipated poor weather expected in our area, making financial plans and obtaining some cash before the weather event is always a good idea.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bank Robbers and Hats

The picture on the right here is a bank robber who robbed the south branch of Cullman Savings Bank just before 2:00 PM yesterday. A note was presented to the teller and an undisclosed amount of money was stolen from the bank in the robbery.

What you see here is extremely common for bank robbers, that being that the suspect is wearing a hat. This is especially true for silent robberies where a note is used as opposed to a strong-arm armed robbery.

I have not seen the photo image of the robber at the teller window which may be more disguised since he is wearing a hat during the robbery. The image shown here is an excellent photo which is not always the case. Video camera placements behind the teller line typically have to be placed higher due to structural logistics. This higher camera placement makes it more difficult to capture a good facial image when a person is wearing a hat at a teller window.

All of these security issues are exactly why we must ask members and visitors to our teller lines to remove their hats as part of the transaction. Several years ago a police investigator questioned why we were allowing people to wear hats at the teller line since it makes it more difficult to secure good evidence when a crime is committed. (We had just been robbed ourselves by a person wearing a hat). Keep in mind that not all crimes are robberies. They can be stolen checks, counterfeit checks, identity theft, or any transaction questioned at a later time.

We are not trying to be difficult in asking people to remove their hats and sunglasses when coming to our teller lines. We are trying to secure the assets of our member's money. Keep in mind that our drive thru's are always available for transactions if removing a hat is too much of a burden.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Improper Conduct Towards Employees

Below is a standard notice that is sent out or given from time to time to members regarding interactions with our employees. Our employees work in a public setting and every now and then we have some individuals who would like to pursue contact with our employees outside of the credit union. Sometimes it is just a case of mistaken motives, sometimes it is not. In the end though we need to be able to provide a workplace that is free from unwanted advances. 

Here is the notice;

We thank you for your membership with North Alabama Educators Credit Union. Please understand that our employees are here to provide friendly member service to all of our members in the course of their work transactions. Sometimes, members mistake that friendliness as an opening to request personal employee information or seek contact with our employees outside of the credit union. Please do not approach our employees regarding a request for personal contact information, social media requests, or contact outside of the credit union. We instruct all of our employees to reply with a simple “no thank you” which should be more than enough to prevent continued requests. Our employees are here to provide friendly member service and nothing else. Please refrain from any comments or activity that could be deemed as unwanted advances towards our employees. As an employer, I am responsible for maintaining a workplace that is free of unwanted advances. I thank you in advance for your cooperation. 

The notice along with a phone call at times is usually all that is needed to rectify any ongoing issues. As an employer, our primary focus must be upon our employees in maintaining the best workplace environment. Most members understand this so we rarely have problem issues to begin with. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Federal Reserve Says "Not Yet" on Rates

The graph above is not a pretty one, especially for those looking to save money. It reflects the history of the Federal Reserve overnight rate from January 1998 to January 2015, although that graph can be extended to show a continued flat line to September 2015 since the Federal Reserve did not raise rates this week. The target rate has been set at 0.00% to 0.25% for seven years. Deposit rates and investment rates have been extremely low during this time as a result. 

Compare a quarterly dividend rate on $10,000 at 0.15% that would pay $3.69 versus earning $98.63 for the same dollar amount at a 4.00% rate. (Basic average historical rate). This is a huge difference and is just destroying deposit earnings on account holders, especially senior citizens who had planned for higher earnings in their retirement years. 

Banks and credit unions can't offer good deposit rates in this environment because their earnings on investments is low too. The average investment yield of North Alabama Educators Credit Union is only 1.15% which is actually higher than our average peer group ratio of 1.08%. The very large credit union category peer group only has a 1.20% average yield on their investments. (All as of June 30, 2015). 

Loan rates of course have been historically low during this same time period so the spread between what a credit union pays on deposits versus what they earn on investments and loans has been reduced. This environment of low rates has been great for borrowers but horrible for savers. Nothing new to anyone there. 

The Federal Reserve Board met this week and the possibility of an initial interest rate increase was good in the eyes of many pundits. It didn't happen. When rates will be raised is a matter of intense speculation. The borrowers have had it pretty good for many years now. It's about time for savers to have some good years! 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Labor Day Recognition

With the upcoming Labor Day weekend upon us, it is fitting to recognize the talents and service of our own employees here at North Alabama Educators Credit Union. The credit union is fortunate to have a group of employees who serve the membership well with their dedication to member service. Having worked myself as a teller many years ago, I know full well how challenging and important these front line employees are to the success of a financial institution. Members work with our front line staff day in and day out and their service is what keeps them doing business with North Alabama Educators Credit Union. Our back office and support area employees do their part in helping members with all the electronic service channels that exist these days. Management and the Board of Directors greatly appreciate the work of our employees. The benefits provided to our employees is a good package and reflects the appreciation of their efforts on behalf of all members. We certainly want to do more whenever possible.

I know that our employees will enjoy a long weekend filled with family gatherings, college football kickoff parties, outdoor events, and just general relaxation on their own terms. They deserve it.

If you are a member of North Alabama Educators Credit Union and really appreciate the service of one or more employees here, please take a moment the next time you visit to let them know. All employees love to be recognized for good deeds. Trust me, it would be appreciated!