How To Earn An “A” In Student Loan Repayment

Color Me Frugal | By Dee S

Hi everyone!  I’m off this week attending to personal business, but please enjoy this guest post from DeAnna, who blogs over at Young & Free St. Louis.

Student loans: It’s a curse word for many. I recently spoke with Colleen Henegan from Vantage Credit Union and she helped me break down the scary walls and understand the basics of repayment options. Colleen has a background in student loans and worked closely with many lenders when they were still active in colleges.

Student loans are there to supplement your finances in order for you to further your education. A lot of people are afraid to get one, and if you can avoid having one you should, but for many of us, they are inevitable. Knowing you will have to take out loans to pay for your education and knowing the ins and outs of the loans will help you prepare for the future. Though it may seem like a lot of money (and usually it is!), an investment in education is generally considered to have a large return.

There are options for you and these tips will help you explore a few of them. Make sure to do additional research on your own as well, so as to not miss anything that may assist you in repayment.

1. Know what consolidation is and what it does.

“Direct Consolidation Loans allow borrowers to combine one or more of their Federal education loans into a new loan that offers several advantages. With only one lender and one monthly payment due for student loans, it is easier than ever for borrowers to manage their debt.”

loanconsolidation.ed.gov

While consolidating offers plenty of benefits, it also may have negative effects on your planned course. For example, if you are planning to enter a loan forgiveness program, consolidation is normally not an option.

2. Avalanche effect

If you decide not to consolidate- instead of just paying your monthly payments, try to direct where the money will be going. Start with the loan that has the highest interest rate and pay MORE than the minimum payment each month. After you have that loan paid off, move down the line, paying the highest interest rate loans first. This will help get rid of the most “expensive” loan first and help pay off your loans quicker.

3. Utilize your online resources to educate yourself             

What kind of budget will you need in order to afford living with loans? What job would be ideal for you to have? Depending on your major and the job you are looking to obtain, will you be able to afford your loan payments? What kind of savings plan/payment plan do you need to establish while you are still in college? Do you qualify for deferment or forbearance? Having these things on your mind- and determining the answers- before you graduate will save you from headache afterwards.

4. Don’t assume                          

Just because your neighbor makes the same amount of money, has the same assets, and has the same number of dependents does not mean your situations will be identical. There are many options (FAFSA, scholarships, deferment, forbearance, assistance) available to help you with your education costs and loan repayment. Just because your friend used a certain process or program to pay back their loans, does not mean it is the best method for you as well.

5. Get the info!            

Take the time to understand each one of your individual loans, not only the process of payment. Keep up with the information that is constantly changing for so many student loans out there. Don’t be oblivious or laissez-faire about your loans, it will come back to haunt you in the end. Checking on the loans and the interest building up will help you estimate your monthly payments after graduation and may inspire you to start saving more money to help pay them off.

6. Look into ALL of your options.           

Not just the most desirable/favorable one. Maybe it would be smarter for you to go to school part-time (instead of full-time) and work more during a certain time of year in order to earn more money.  This could help you keep your total amount of student loan debt down, which means less for you to pay back!

I hope these tips spark some interest in understanding your student loan repayment schedule! As mentioned, take the time to do some additional research and it will benefit you in the long run.

Editor’s note:  my personal best student loan tip is to keep your expenses as low as possible while you are in school!  Mr. CMF and I certainly wish we had put more effort into keeping expenses low rather than living too high on student loans as we did.  Had we made more of an effort to live frugally back then, we would likely be a heck of a lot closer to having our student loans paid off than we are currently!

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Search is on for Next Young & Free Spokesperson in St. Louis

St. Louis Today | By Jenn A

Vantage Credit Union is looking for their new voice to represent the 18- to 25-year-old crowd in St. Louis. The search officially begins on Tuesday, January 28.

Interested 18- to 25-year-olds can visit YoungFreeStLouis.com for details and application instructions for this unique position. Complete applications should include a short YouTube video outlining what would make them the best Y&F Spokester, a blog post on a financially-entertaining topic, and a completed personal information form. Applications will be accepted online through 3:00 pm on Monday, March 3.

All qualified applicants will then be put to a public vote that will run Wednesday, March 5 to Monday, March 17 at 3:00 pm. The public will vote for their favorite applicant, with the top five applicants automatically becoming finalists. Vantage will then add three more applicants to the finalist pool. The final eight will complete another video and blog post and partake in a fun and challenging Show Your Stuff Meet-Up. One finalist from the Show Your Stuff Meet-Up will be chosen as the new Young & Free St. Louis Spokester and will start in April.

“We’ve had three previous Spokesters with Young & Free, and each of them brought something different to the role. One thing they had in common is that they already had a strong presence in social media through Facebook, Twitter or YouTube,” said Rachel Parrent, Community Engagement Manager at Vantage Credit Union. “We’re encouraging young people to not just imagine a job where they can attend events, interact online, shoot videos and write blogs, but actually apply for this dream job right here in St. Louis.”

The winning Spokester will become a salaried employee of Vantage Credit Union for one year. His or her job as spokesperson will include participation in regional events and regular creation of videos and blogs to keep conversation current on YoungFreeStLouis.com.

Young & Free St. Louis is a web-based initiative that addresses the unique financial needs of 18- to 25-year-olds and helps them to Get Money Smart, Save Your Money, and Win Free Stuff. A Young & Free Spokester represents the voice of Gen Y for a one-year term. They attend regional events and keep YoungFreeStLouis.com fresh with weekly videos, blog posts and tips that educate, entertain and engage their peers.

The winning candidate will be paid for their year as spokesperson and will be provided with all the gear necessary to do their job. The final candidate will be equipped with a MacBook Pro notebook computer, an HD video camera, an iPhone with a one-year paid contract, and full use of a branded Nissan Cube!

For official details on the spokesperson position and contest rules, please visit: http://www.youngfreestlouis.com/2014-search.

Vantage Credit Union is a leading, full-service financial institution with over $716 million in assets, and more than 100,000 member-owners. The credit union’s 14 locations serve the City of St. Louis and 19 counties in eastern Missouri, and Madison and St. Clair counties in Illinois.

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Millennials Save Big at a Credit Union

Credit Unions Online | By Gina Ragusa

Why do millennials need to pay especially close to how they handle finances? One reason is because student loan debt has overwhelmed the majority of young adults, averaging approximately $29,400 for someone who graduated in 2012.

That’s a lot of cabbage considering that a Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce found that most millennials wouldn’t earn the median-wage annual income of $42,000 until they are at least 30 years old.

The good and bad news is that most consumers within this age bracket know they are in over their head. A recent survey by Harvard’s Institute of Politics found that a whopping 79% believe that student loan debt is a significant problem, which is a good chunk of the 14 million people under the age of 30 with an open student loan.

While 30% of millennials blame the government for this roadblock, 42% believe the fault lies with the colleges. Either way, young adults need help, which is exactly what credit unions are prepared to offer.

Young and Free--of Debt!

In recent years, the credit union industry rolled out a specialized program geared specifically to young adults’ needs and goals. “Young and Free” is offered at a variety of credit unions throughout the country, providing not only exclusive deals on rates and fees, but also important advice on how to best manage money. The program is open to members ages 17 to 25.

Each Young and Free program has its own “spokester,” a peer who actively reaches out through advertising and social media to communicate the benefits of credit union membership.

"My generation has so many financial decisions to make--which is always a challenge. " says Vicky Goldwater, Spokester for Young & Free Michigan. "As the spokester for the Young & Free Michigan program, I get to interact with high school and college students, hear their financial fears and, hopefully, help them start to ask the right questions. As community based non-profits, even my peers without a ton of financial expertise can understand that credit unions will have their members' best interests at heart."

Michigan First Credit Union (Lathrup Village, MI) reports a decent response to its Young and Free program, which launched in 2011. "Since kicking off the Young & Free Michigan program in 2011, we've opened more than 6,700 First Gear checking accounts and shared our positive financial message with thousands of 17-25 year olds in metro Detroit," says Sue Postemski, vice president of marketing for Michigan First. "Credit unions are an ideal place for young people to learn about banking and personal finance, and Young & Free has given us a great tool to connect with them. The First Gear checking account has 'training wheels' to help them learn the ropes of money management, like overdraft forgiveness. Also, YoungFreeMichigan.com and the program's social media channels are filled with fun financial insights."

Currently, Young and Free Michigan is giving away up to $85,000 in scholarships along with over $100,000 in prizes, not to mention a free checking account and a 1% rate discount on auto loans.

For Young and Free members at Vantage Credit Union (St. Louis, MO), it’s all about inspiring members to utilize money saving opportunities through their credit union.

"Young adults are making decisions on where to do the majority of their banking for the rest of their lives,” says Rachel Parent, community engagement manager. “Credit unions are definitely the wisest choice, but our constant struggle is how to get them in the door. Through Young & Free St. Louis we have been able to attract young adults to Vantage Credit Union and show them there really is a difference in where you keep your money.”

“Not only do we offer great products and services, we care about helping you along the way,” Parent adds. “Through the Young & Free blog and social media interactions, we strive to educate, inspire and inform our young members in areas of finance and share simple tips for saving or finding things to do locally, usually free or inexpensive. We see it as an opportunity to build relationships and loyalty, not just add more accounts and loans, which happen to show up through those relationships anyway."

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Vantage Credit Union Selects Caressa Davis As 2013 Young & Free Spokesperson

stltoday.com | by Jenn A

Caressa Davis is the 2013 Voice of Young & Free St. Louis

ST. LOUIS – Caressa Davis, of St. Louis, learned she was the next Young & Free  St. Louis spokesperson at a surprise party Monday night at The Schlafly Tap Room. Davis was one of 28 applicants who applied for the position in January. Ten finalists made it into the final search phase based on a public vote.

Davis was surprised by family, friends and coworkers, whom she thought she was meeting for dinner to celebrate her position as a top ten finalist. Davis will start working for Vantage April 8, when current spokesperson, Jenn Cloud, steps down.

"I believed this position was perfect for me from the first time I saw the commercial on TV! It's a combination of all the things I love to do,” commented Davis. “I love the program’s concept and can't wait to get out there and show what Young and Free St. Louis is all about!"

As the Young & Free spokesperson, Davis will become a salaried employee of the credit union for one year. She will serve as the ‘voice’ of her age group, attending events, updating social media and creating regular online videos and blog posts on financial and pop-culture topics to keep YoungFreeStLouis.com an informative hub for the 25-and-under crowd in St. Louis.

Jenn Cloud, the current spokesperson, has accepted a social media position with the credit union and is looking forward to mentoring the new spokesperson in her first few weeks.

“Caressa really impressed us with her spirit and networking abilities,” said Cloud. “She has a great heart to help young people with their finances and life skills and she already has the background to do so. I think she’ll be amazing in this role.”

Young & Free St. Louis is an award-winning youth program that offers the 25-and-under crowd useful information to assist them in managing their finances. It does this through a spokesperson hired as a voice for younger members; a free checking account called Not Your Mama’s Account that’s designed to give young people a head start, complete with innovative online banking services; and a dedicated website featuring entertaining blog posts and videos with helpful advice and financial tips, all created by the spokesperson.

Vantage Credit Union has exclusive rights to Young & Free in the state of Missouri. The credit union joins others in Alabama, Alberta (Canada), Indiana, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico and South Carolina, as exclusive Young & Free license holders.

Vantage Credit Union is a progressive, full-service financial institution with over $700 million in assets, and more than 100,000 member-owners. The credit union’s 14 locations serve the City of St. Louis and 19 counties in eastern Missouri, and Madison and St. Clair counties in Illinois.

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UCM student seeks help to land dream job

digitalBURG.com | by Nicole Cooke

Most of the time the job application process is a one-person task. For one UCM student, landing her dream job involves the whole community.

Public relations major Maggie Quinn is set to graduate this May, so the job hunt has already started. She has been scouring job postings for the perfect position to start her career. She has found that job with Vantage Credit Union as the next Young and Free St. Louis Spokester.

The application process includes writing a sample blog post with a financial theme, creating a one-minute video introduction, and sending in a resume and cover letter.

The next step in the process is voting. Twenty-five candidates were selected and now the top 10 is in the hands of the public.

Candidates now have to do whatever they can to get the most votes to reach the top 10, which gets them an interview. Quinn has been hard at work trying to get the word out about the contest in any way she can. She has used many forms of social media, including Facebook, Twitter, her WordPress blog, Vimeo, Pinterest and “ask me” on Reddit.

She has also sent out news releases to publications in Warrensburg and Fenton, Mo., her hometown. She also posted the release in as many places as possible, using her public relations knowledge from her classes.

Quinn also sent out emails to her family and friends, who forwarded the emails on to their friends. Some of her friends have also shared her Facebook posts with their followers, making the Quinn’s reach even farther.

The current vote counts aren’t public, so Quinn doesn’t know where she stands.

“I could be in the top 10 already, I could be really far behind, or I could need just a few more votes to make top 10,” she said. “I have no idea where I stand right now.”

The job, which is for one year, would put Quinn in charge of outreach for 18-25 year olds on the topic of financial education. She would work on social media outlets, attend promotional events and create videos.

It combines public relations with being in front of the camera and working with people, two things that she said she loves to do.

“This is definitely my dream job,” she said.

Even though she is skilled in many of the areas required for the position, she said she was still nervous when she posted her video to the site. She said she was also nervous when she began asking for votes.

“You’re asking someone for a favor and that’s not always easy,” she said. “But I’ve gotten such a strong reaction that it’s been motivating me to do even more. I’ve seen so many people willing to help me get my message out that it’s inspiring me to get my message to more people.”

The application process for the job is a unique one, and Quinn said she sees it as more of an audition than an application.

“You have to know how to pitch yourself, which shows that you would be able to pitch things for Vantage,” she said. “It lets the company see your communication and outreach abilities.”

Quinn said she hopes she lands the job, but the whole process will still be worth it  if she has to keep searching for that first job.

“I have learned how much incredible support I have,” Quinn said. “I’m also proud of what I was able to do. No one from UCM has applied before, so it’s a first for us. It’s a way for me to repay the support and education I’ve gotten. If I got the job, I would be able to represent the skill sets UCM grads are getting on a very public scale.”

Voting ends March 11 at 5 p.m. The top 10 will be announced March 12.

To view Quinn’s application page, visit youngfreestlouis.com.

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Waitress Fired Over Viral Receipt Tip, Up For Vantage’s Spokester

Fox2now.com | By Andy Banker

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – A St. Louis waitress whose launched a “viral” story online after she posted a snarky message left on a co-worker’s receipt may soon be back in the limelight.

She’s a Top 25 finalist in a contest to become a spokesperson for a St. Louis-area credit union.

The job title is ‘Spokester” for Vantage Credit Union’s Young & Free St. Louis campaign.

It`s a one-year, full time job, promoting the credit union and its financial programs and accounts on social media and the internet.

It may seem reigning ‘Spokester’ Jenn Cloud was born for the job. She`s intelligent, hard-working, hard-driving – and just the right amount of goofy.

Cloud said it came with the territory. Part of the job is driving a heavily-marked
‘Young & Free STL’ Nissan Cube – everywhere.

‘You have to be a little bit fearless.  Part of this job is being able to talk to anybody, anywhere, either in person or online. The car is part of it too,’ she laughed.  ‘They pay the gas for you too for the whole year.  I haven`t had to think about gas prices since I`ve had this job.  That`s pretty awesome.’

Her term is finished. She said the ‘Spokester’ job helped her line up a great new job.

Chelsea Welch hopes to replace Cloud.

Welch gained fame when she was fired from Applebee`s after posting a receipt on social media, on which the customer, who was a church pastor, left a snarky remark on a receipt saying, ‘I give God 10%’.

Welch became something of a hero to restaurant workers everywhere for taking a stand.

But she said she knew ‘Spokester’ competition was fierce.

She wanted to make clear, this was not an attempt to ‘cash in’ on that Applebee`s fame. ‘Things like social media, writing, marketing, PR; those are the big fields right now.  That`s what every company cares about.  They care about the social media buzz.”

Voting continues through Monday, March 11. Click on the link on this page to vote.

A week later, the top 10 will make presentations before a special panel which will pick the overall winner.

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St. Louis Native Seeks Community's Help in Achieving Dream Job Read more: http://interact.stltoday.com/pr/local-news/PR030113015012040#ixzz2MmXCRhAD

stltoday.com

Maggie Quinn, a senior at the University of Central Missouri, is competing to be the Young and Free St. Louis Spokester

St. Louis, Mo., March 1, 2013… With college graduation quickly approaching, Fenton, Mo. native Maggie Quinn hopes to win Vantage Credit Union’s contest to become the next Young & Free St. Louis Spokester. To receive an interview for the competition, Quinn, a public relations and Spanish major, must be within the top ten candidates to receive the most votes at http://www.youngfreestlouis.com/2013-search/.

The Young & Free St. Louis Spokester is in charge of social media and general outreach with the 18 to 25-year-old age group. Submitting an online vote takes only a few seconds, and requires only the voter’s name and email address. Email addresses are required only to ensure that voting is limited to one vote per person per legitimate email address.

“I could not be more excited to graduate and return to St. Louis with every skill required to do great things with this non-profit organization. I am more than ready to begin giving back to my community, after having received so much while living there my entire life. First, however, I need to ask one more thing from St. Louis: the most votes possible,” said Quinn.

To view Quinn’s Young & Free St. Louis blog post and application video, visit: http://www.youngfreestlouis.com/search-applicants/2013-spokester-search-maggie-quinn. All votes can be submitted to http://www.youngfreestlouis.com/2013-search/, until the contest closes Tuesday March 11th at 5:00 p.m.

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UCM senior seeks support from campus community

digitalBURG.com

With spring graduation quickly approaching, UCM senior Maggie Quinn hopes to win Vantage Credit Union’s contest to become the next Young & Free St. Louis Spokester.

To receive an interview for the competition, Quinn, a public relations and Spanish major, must be within the top ten candidates to receive the most votes at http://www.youngfreestlouis.com/2013-search/.

The Young & Free St. Louis Spokester is in charge of social media and general outreach with the 18 to 25-year-old age group. Submitting an online vote takes a few seconds, and requires the voter’s name and email address. Personal information will not be used by Vantage Credit Union or any other organization. Email addresses are required to ensure that voting is limited to one vote per person per legitimate email address.

“UCM has equipped me with every skill required to do great things with this non-profit organization,” Quinn said. “After receiving so much through my education, I am more than ready to begin representing this university in the job world. But first, I need to ask one more thing from UCM and the campus community: the most votes possible.”

To view Quinn’s Young & Free St. Louis blog post and application video, visit: http://www.youngfreestlouis.com/search-applicants/2013-spokester-search-maggie-quinn. All votes can be submitted to http://www.youngfreestlouis.com/2013-search/, until the contest closes at 5:00 p.m Tuesday, March 11.

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Young And Free St. Louis Spokester Search

media-fox2-stl.png

Fox2now.com | By Angela Hutti and Andy Banker

(KTVI) — There is a job opening for the 18 to 25 crowd in St. Louis.  Young & Free St. Louis is a program by Vantage Credit Union that helps educate the college-age population about financial smarts and being active in the community.  Vantage is looking for their next “Spokester” and that could be you.

If you win the job, you get a $25,000 salary plus a chance to earn $5,000 bonus money just for  being yourself and speaking for Vantage Credit Union.

So if you are creative, outgoing, self-motivated and between 18 and 25, get your blog and resume together before February 25, 2013.

Click here for all the information you need to apply.

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We Need a New Vantage Young & Free St. Louis Spokester!

Vantage Credit Union

Have you seen Jenn Cloud speeding around town in that colorful Young & Free Nissan Cube? Well, she’s not really “speeding” (she’s a very responsible driver!), but she is all over town, attending events, handing our swag and being seen (and handing out $10 after being seen!).

But Jenn’s time is about up as our current Young & Free spokesperson, and that can only mean that we need to find a replacement. Could that be you? Are you the next voice for Young & Free St. Louis?

If you’re between 18 and 25 years of age, creative, self-motivated and can get your 18- to 25-year-old peers talking, we’ve got the job for you! Create videos, write blogs, attend cool events…you’ll do it all as the next Young & Free St. Louis spokesperson. And you’ll be paid to do it!

Don’t fit the profile? Maybe you know someone who would be a perfect fit? Grandparents, do you have a grandchild that would meld seamlessly into this position? Aunts, uncles—is there a niece or nephew out there that would fit the bill? Teachers, do you have any students who could tackle this position with their eyes closed? Well, be a real hero and tell them about it! 

What will your friends think YOU do as our next Young & Free St. Louis spokester? To find out, get that creativity in gear and submit an application. Deadline to enter is February 25th. Visit YoungFreeStLouis.com for all the details.

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Vantage Credit Union Searches for New Young & Free Spokesperson

stltoday.com

ST. LOUIS – Vantage Credit Union is looking for a new voice for the younger St. Louis crowd, ages 18-25. The search officially kicks off Tuesday, January 22.

Interested 18-25 year-olds can visit YoungFreeStLouis.com for details and application instructions. Complete applications should include a 60-second video uploaded to YouTube, a blog post and a completed personal information form. Applications will be accepted online through 5 p.m. on Monday, February 25.

One talented individual will be chosen from the applicants to head a unique social media campaign targeted directly to their peers. It’s an innovative way to gain real world experience while having a lot of fun on the job!

“We are looking for someone who’s creative, energetic and outgoing, someone who is comfortable using social media to connect with their peer group, who is involved in the community and who can get conversations started,” said Kathy Palmer, Vice President of Marketing.

A public vote will take place February 27 – March 11. The new Young & Free spokesperson will be chosen by Monday, March 25, and will start in April.

Young & Free St. Louis is a web-based initiative that addresses the unique financial needs of 18- to 25-year-olds. A Young & Free spokesperson represents the voice of Gen Y for a one-year term. They attend regional events and keep YoungFeeStLouis.com fresh with weekly videos, blog posts and tips that educate, entertain and engage their peers.

The winning candidate will be paid for their year as spokesperson and will be provided with all the gear necessary to do their job. The final candidate will be equipped with a MacBook Pro notebook computer, an HD video camera, an iPhone with a one-year paid contract, and full use of a branded Nissan Cube!

For official details on the spokesperson position and contest rules, please visit: http://www.youngfreestlouis.com/2013-search.

Vantage Credit Union is a progressive, full-service financial institution with over $700 million in assets, and more than 100,000 member-owners. The credit union’s 14 locations serve the City of St. Louis and 19 counties in eastern Missouri, and Madison and St. Clair counties in Illinois.

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Crash & Learn Contest from Young & Free St. Louis

Kirkwood Patch | By Jennifer Allemann

You’ve lived. You’ve learned. Now you can share your life experiences for a chance to win cash prizes! Vantage is hosting the Crash & Learn Challenge, an exciting opportunity for young people to share their learning experiences and earn cash prizes. The contest is open to 18-to 25-year-olds, July 16-August 16, 2012.

For a chance to win, you simply create a video that explains a challenge in your life. How did you overcome adversity? What lesson did you learn? How have you used it to your advantage?

Original videos will be accepted online through August 16. Public voting will take place August 17-27. Winners will be announced August 31. For details, and to share a challenge video, visit: YoungFreeStLouis.com/crash-and-learn. The winning video will take home a cash prize of $500. There will be a second prize of $300 and a third prize of $200. Plus, 5 random voters will each receive a $20 Visa gift card.

"We’ve all faced challenges in our lives,” said Vantage VP of Marketing, Kathy Palmer. “Why not share that experience and how you worked through it with others who could benefit from it or be inspired by your success? We also hope to learn what types of obstacles young people have faced so we can connect with them on a deeper level."

www.YoungFreeStLouis.com

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Social Madness Spotlight: Vantage Credit Union

St. Louis Business Journal

Social media stats (Young and Free accounts):

  • Facebook: 765 likes
  • Twitter: 721 followers

People behind the accounts:

Fast facts:

Vantage Credit Union  has a separate domain strategy and launched a separate program specifically to reach 18-to 25-year-olds. Young & Free’s YouTube channel has nearly 100 videos uploaded and over 21,000 views. The spokespeople produce one new video each week on topics ranging from money management and lifestyle tips to highlights from events across St. Louis. Young & Free’s active social media platforms are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Foursquare, which corresponds with their ongoing and interactive “Find The Cube” game.

Goal:

Social media is kind of like a party where your friends, your family, your coworkers, your boss, your rivals, your competitors, your exes, your high school buddies, your annoying neighbors, some random businesses, and people you don’t even know come together across different online platforms to share their thoughts.

Turning human interaction into something beneficial for your bottom line is easier said than done and the best analogy I’ve found for it is that of tending a field. It takes seeds that don’t even look like the eventual plant you are trying to grow…and then learning about all the things it needs…then actually doing these things over and over again until the plant sprouts. You need to give a lot to that little plant before it can give something really delicious back.

Social media, as a new layer of communication, is something that Vantage Credit Union really believes in nurturing. So much so that they have a sizeable, multi-part social media strategy and the largest part of it is a special program called Young & Free St. Louis. It is a project within Vantage as a whole but that functions fairly independently through its own special website and social media.

Best practices:

Meet people where they are and adapt tools to help customers’ needs. VCU created a unique application, called TweetMyMoney, to help our members do basic mobile banking on the go. A more substantial mobile app is now in development.

Look for winners. We often use social media to run contests where we give all kinds of things away from fun sunglasses to green Cardinal baseball hats to money and of course, even a full-time job.

Each of our larger contests runs heavily on Facebook or uses Facebook to refer to members to our website resulting in lots of new fans, most of whom stick around even after the contest ends. We want to help our members have fun because that is part of the more personal, local nature of the credit union model we love!

Get referrals. I regularly get inquires from friends and contacts who ask me about why credit unions are different, how to start a loan, how to switch their accounts, where the closest ATM or branch is, what our rates are, etc. They have reached out to me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and by text and email and I am able to respond quickly through each of these channels. Social media is not just part of a “marketing” role. In this way I’ve also had the opportunity to get in on some sales, help desk, call center and customer service action as well!

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Here to Help: Gen Y Columnist Talkin' 'Bout Her Generation, Part 3

Credit Union Times | By Myriam DiGiovanni

In the latest Here to Help series, Credit Union Times' own Gen Y Back Talk columnist Natasha Chilingerian sheds some light on her generation.

In this segment she talks about Gen Y strategies at two credit unions - one in Ohio, the other in Missouri.

This is the third of six videos on the subject.

  • Part 1 covers labels, age range and both the positive and negative stereotypes often associated with this group.
  • Part 2 covers Gen Y's financial woes and what they need from their financial institutions. Part 3 covers Gen Y strategies at two credit unions - one in Ohio, the other in Missouri.
  • Part 3 covers Gen Y strategies at two credit unions - one in Ohio, the other in Missouri.
  • Part 4 covers the technology Gen Y expects, including text, mobile, RDC, location awareness.
  • Part 5 covers the power of social media.
  • Part 6 wraps things up with a warning to not assume or generalize about the younger set.

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To be Young & Free

Suburban Journals

Vantage Credit Union is challenging 18-to-25-year-olds to design a new debit card four our Young & Free account.

Applicants may submit an original debit card design for the credit union's Not Your Mama's Account. The winning debit card designer will take home a cash prize of $500 and will have the opportunity to have their concept produced and used by Vantage Credit Union. There will be a second prize of $200 and a third prize of $100.

For more information or for details, go to youngfreestlouis.com/debit-card-design-challenge.

The deadline to submit a design online is March 30. The public will vote April 5-12. All voters will be registered into a drawing for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card.

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How Do You Envision Being ‘Young & Free’ In St. Louis?

UniversityCityPatch | By Maggie Rotermund

ST. LOUIS – Are you creative? Could your design portfolio use some new material? Then we’ve got a design challenge for you! During the month of March, Vantage Credit Union is challenging talented 18- to 25-year-olds to design a new debit card for Vantage's Young & Free account.

Applicants may submit an original debit card design for the credit union’s Not Your Mama’s Account (NYMA).

Are you interested? 

Visit YoungFreeStLouis.com/debit-card-design-challenge for details and instructions.

Applications will be accepted online through Friday, March 30, 2012. Public voting will take place April 5-12.

"Over 5,000 Young & Free members use our NYMA check card, so we've had the chance to get lots a feedback. Many have expressed interest in having a choice in card designs. This design challenge is an opportunity for young people to have a say in what their card might look like." said Vice President of Marketing Kathy Palmer. "Plus, we thought this would be a great way to showcase regional talent."

The winning debit card designer will take home a cash prize of $500 and will have the opportunity to have their concept produced and used by Vantage Credit Union.

There will be a second prize of $200 and a third prize of $100. All voters will be registered into an additional drawing for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card.

Young & Free St. Louis is a multi-media initiative addressing the unique financial needs of the 18- 25-year-old crowd.

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Seeking Gen Y as Credit Unions Invest in Members of the Future

Credit Union Times | By Natashia Chilingerian

All credit unions know their futures depend on connecting with Gen Y, but it still seems they’re having a tough time doing so.

According to a recent Filene Research Institute report, “Credit Union Market Niches: Social and Demographic Opportunities,” challenges such as closed fields of membership, weak technology and even a misunderstanding of the term “credit union” stand in the way of nudging the average CU member age down from 47.

Some credit unions, however, are using creative marketing programs to build young membership and have been reporting positive results. The $668 million Vantage Credit Union of Bridgeton, Mo., for example, is making a splash with young consumers in the St. Louis area through its Gen Y outreach program, Young & Free.

Vantage CU’s Young & Free spokesperson, 25-year-old Jenn Cloud, acts as a liaison between the young St. Louis community and the credit union. She hosts events, makes appearances and posts blogs and videos to the Young & Free St. Louis website, all with the goal of promoting Vantage CU and the credit union movement to the 18 to 25 age bracket.

Cloud said she helps snag new young members by marketing Not Your Mama’s Account, Vantage CU’s flagship Gen Y product. Not Your Mama’s Account is a free checking account that promotes saving through its Swipe2Save feature, an automatic transfer activated by debit transactions, and allows mistakes with the Oops NSF Fee rebate, which allows account holders one penalty-free overdraft every six months.

An online personal financial management tool helps Not Your Mama’s Account holders keep their spending in check.

“The goal is to get members in when they’re young and make sure they’re satisfied with the two most basic products – checking and savings accounts,” Cloud said. “Then, through continued education, we can be there when they’re ready for, say, a mortgage.”

Since beginning her position about six months ago, Cloud has raised awareness about Vantage’s products by hosting an ugly sweater Christmas party and a wine bar “tweet-up” for Twitter followers, just to name a few. The publicity has been positive: currently, 18- to 25-year-olds comprise 12.5% of Vantage CU’s membership and 37% of those members are Not Your Mama’s Account holders.

Cloud lists mobile banking access, social media participation and giveaway programs as three other vehicles for attracting Gen Y. Vantage CU is currently developing a mobile banking app and offers TweetMyMoney, which gives members limited mobile banking access via Twitter. It also has an active Facebook account and offers local merchant coupons to members.

She also pointed out that credit unions should keep in mind the needs of young folks in their geographical area. In St. Louis, for example, getting married and buying a home is common for 25-year-olds, which makes mortgages key products for local Gen Y-ers, she said.

The Young & Free program is currently in place at 10 credit unions in eight states and two Canadian provinces and employs 10 full-time spokespeople.

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Seeing St. Louis: Social Media

timeline online | By Jon Street

The Gateway to the West is highlighting happenings with social media.

Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Groupon and LivingSocial among other prominent social networking sites are helping St. Louis residents decide how to get the best bang for their buck.

Jennifer Cloud, social media expert and alumna of Missouri Baptist University, gave some tips on how to find things to do on a budget in St. Louis. 

“I love this city and there really is a lot of cool stuff to do, you just need to know where to look,” Cloud said.

Cloud recommended Yelp.com/st-louis, the only social media site specific to St. Louis.

“Yelp is an amazing social community and local business review site that really rewards those who use it and help build it up,” Cloud said.

Yelp users can post business reviews and interact with local users to make sure they’re up to date with what’s going on and how to get more for less.

Cloud, spokesperson for Young and Free St. Louis, a Vantage Credit Union sponsored organization that gives young adults a voice regarding financial needs, said she posts special offers from Yelp on the Young and Free St. Louis website when she finds them.

Another feature of Young and Free St. Louis is the events calendar, also letting users post their own events.

Cloud also highlighted websites like Groupon, LivingSocial, Eventful, Eventbrite and Patch, along with local media sites such as Sauce Magazine and Riverfront Times.

“Patch.com offers a highly localized news site where events are also listed, all very family friendly,” said Cloud. “Eventful and Eventbrite allows people to easily post and share their own events and even sell tickets but they also aren't communities of their own.”

Cloud said Twitter is also a great event resource, simply by searching for #STL and #StLouis hashtags.

St. Louis residents take advantage of a few of these online services to get deals available in several city venues.

  • Concert and entertainment venues: St. Louis Symphony, Fox Theatre, Scottrade Center, Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, The Muny
  • Radio stations: Y98, JoyFM, KMOX
  • News stations: NewsChannel5, KMOV-4, Fox2Now
  • Print and online publications: Patch, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Weatherbird
  • Family-friendly attractions: City Museum, The Magic House, Saint Louis Zoo
  • Sports teams: St. Louis Rams, St. Louis Blues, St. Louis Cardinals
  • St. Louis districts: The Loop, Downtown St. Louis, Central West End
  • Café and restaurant venues: Starbucks, Panera Bread, Chick-fil-A, Sno-Biz, Fritz’s Root Beer, Qdoba

A number of MBU students also find these deals go easy on a college budget.

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6 Benefits Of Using A Credit Union

SF Gate (San Francisco Chronicle)

People have associated banks with trustworthiness, longevity and stability in the financial world - at least, until recently. With the shake-down of the financial markets and the collapse of many financial institutions, many of us are starting to question if banks are the best way to store, transfer and save our money. 

Misconceptions About Credit Unions

Jenn Cloud, the Young and Free Spokesperson for Vantage Credit Union, notes that credit unions are often mistaken for "a payday lender or some exclusive club that requires you to be a part of a union or work in a certain field to join." But, continues Cloud, neither of these misconceptions are true. So if you're considering a credit union instead of a bank, there are quite a few reasons to make the jump.

Friendliness and Accessibility

Big banks can seem cold, formal and even unreachable. It often seems that branch managers don't have the authority to make the decisions to help you, or that the bank itself is so enormous it doesn't really care about having your business. Credit unions can be friendlier in atmosphere and tone, and simply more accessible on every level. According to Cloud, "being smaller and local allows them to be very connected to their neighborhoods and versatile to respond to feedback." 

A Co-Op, Not a Corporation

Credit unions often consider themselves "financial cooperatives" rather than financial institutions. The goal is not to make more money from customers, but to "address a common need through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise," according to the Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union.

Nothing to Lose

According to Cloud, the only standard requirement for membership in most credit unions is that you live in the area. According to Cloud, credit unions offer all the same services as banks: "checking, saving loan and investment options."

It's a Democracy

Perhaps the most outstanding feature of credit unions is that they are member-owned and member-run. Credit unions are free to make decisions to benefit their members, rather than seeking to please "some removed group of stockholders somewhere," says Cloud.

Better Rates

"Being member-owned generally allows the rate of returns on savings accounts to be higher and the interest rates on loans to be lower than at a bank," notes Cloud.

The ability to make money on your own money is a huge step in the right financial direction, but something that's often out of reach at a corporate bank unless you reach a high dollar balance in your account. Since profits to stockholders aren't a part of the company vision, credit unions are free to pass surplus money on to members, "in the form of fewer fees, more services, lower interest on loans and higher dividends on deposits."

Cool Perks and Free Education

Some credit unions, such as Vantage, offer fun and useful products such as individual health and pet insurance and financial advisory services, says Cloud. Most credit unions focus on community enrichment and financial education, with many offering free classes or other means of education to the community. 

The Bottom Line

When it comes to banking services, credit unions offer the same menu of financial services that you'll find at large banking corporations. If you're frustrated with long lines and unresponsive customer service, a credit union might just be the best place to put your money. It's tough to beat a place that's community-focused, friendly and offers better interest rates.

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In St. Louis, This Credit Union Is a Financial One-Stop Shop

CU Move Your Money

Did you know that many credit unions even offer investment, mortgage and insurance products in addition to your regular banking needs such as checking and savings accounts? Even down to pet insurance and individual health insurance options for the self-employed, credit unions really can be a one-stop shop for ALL of your financial needs! After opening my checking and savings accounts and taking out 2 successful loans with Vantage Credit Union here in my home town of St. Louis I'm going to be visiting their insurance and investments division this month to start talking about how to save for retirement (at the ripe old age of 25!) and transfer my auto and renters insurance over, too. Why have these things all spread out when they can all be handled by one institution that I know and trust?

Credit unions can often do all the same things that banks do for you but are way nicer about it. You can deposit your money, take it out, move it around, invest it, easily pay all of your bills AND deal with someone in your local area if you ever have an issue arise. Your local credit unions probably do a lot more than you realize, give them a call or check them out today to see what the different ones around you offer to find the best fit!

In the St. Louis area, please check out Vantage Credit Union and our fun Young & Free program that gives a voice to the 18-25 year old crowd in our tri-county metro area.

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