FEATUREBy Brian KeagyFinancial firsts
Whether it’s your first savings account, credit card, auto loan or home mortgage, smart money management and planning will lead to financial stability down the road.
The scenarios are many, yet relatable: a youngster learning about spending and saving with a savings or checking account; a student building credit history by getting their first credit card; a college graduate financing a new car with an auto loan; or a young couple making a big move by entering into their first mortgage.

Exciting times, and these financial firsts are important steps in most peoples’ real-world journeys. Understanding how to manage these scenarios correctly can either set you down the proper financial path or present pitfalls that may unnecessarily derail your financial future.

Those first steps are critical, and American Airlines Federal Credit Unionhelps members cultivate a healthy approach to their finances.
Discover more details hereFuture investment
Credit Union loan officer Barbie Bethel began sharing her passion for money management with her new grandson, Maverick, by setting him up with a savings account. The Credit Union offers a variety of savings and checking options that are tailored to members creating their first financial plan, including UChecking for members ages 13 through 25; Dream Plan Share Certificates that provide a long-term savings option starting as small as a $25 initial deposit and a contribution of at least $25 each month; and a number of IRA and Education Savings choices. “There’s a huge focus on the family here and helping others in our community achieve their financial goals,” Bethel said.
Let the American Airlines Credit Union help guide as you take the first step of each financial milestone.
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Creating credit
The first big step for many looking to build credit and establish good habits is getting a credit card. It’s important to remember that not all credit cards are created equal — picking the right card for your situation is key. Anthony Hazzard has been a member for three years. He said the representatives at the Credit Union helped him in selecting the right financial products for his needs, including the right credit card. He said he opened a credit card account because of the phenomenal welcome bonus that was being offered and the ability to earn points along with the promotional APR that was also being offered. 

The Credit Union’s Visa® Platinum Starter Rewards card is tailored to members 18 years and older, offering some of the same benefits and convenience as other Credit Union cards, but with a lower credit limit. One such benefit is the ability to earn Connection PointsTM, which can be used for travel and retail gift cards or merchandise. No matter what rewards are offered, learning how credit and associated interest works will serve you well going forward.

"The process at the Credit Union is a lot different than that of big banks," Anthony said. "I had a rep contact me when I opened my account — it was a very personal feel. I was a name and not only a name but a valued name." He even went on to open an auto loan account, savings account and Dream account. "Honestly, I don't know where I would be financially if it were not for the Credit Union. I feel that I am better off financially because of the products and services that are offered."
Auto shop
Buying a car for the first time is an exhilarating experience — and a substantial financial commitment. Credit Union Branch Manager Julio Berrios says understanding the numbers involved is an important first step. The Credit Union offers substantially lower rates and minimum down payments than dealerships, particularly for first-time buyers with limited or no credit history. But having those discussions is key.

“Go sit down with your loan officer, work out the numbers and find out what your budget is, especially if you’re a first-time borrower,” Berrios said. Included in those various expenses to be factored in is quality insurance. “You want to contact a reputable insurance company — don’t take shortcuts.”

Berrios recalled a first-time buyer and new college student he counseled to purchase a more modest vehicle that he could afford while working part-time and focusing on school. Years later, the member came back to Berrios with a college degree and the financial wherewithal to finally buy his dream car.

Home security
Purchasing your first home is not only a significant financial investment, but a complex and sometimes overwhelming process. And as with an auto loan, knowing and charting your expenses is vital, according to Credit Union underwriter Margie Koch. “The biggest thing we see is first-time buyers trying to buy above their means,” Koch said.

The variety of loans offered by the Credit Union feature lower rates and closing costs than the national average, along with financial calculators and personal counseling from Credit Union representatives who can walk first-time buyers through key topics such as qualifying debt-to-income ratios, assets for down payment, closing costs, reserves and mortgage insurance. Truly understanding your budget and specific needs can head off any nightmare scenarios and make your home ownership dream a reality.
Brian Keagy is Dallas-based writer who writes about finances, sports and lifestyles and has contributed to cent$ for 15 years.