VISA® gift cards Oct 30, 2014, 8:47 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Looking for the perfect gift for employees, those hard-to-please relatives and friends?

We have the solution: a VISA® Gift card. Bank of American Fork’s VISA® Gift cards allow recipients to decide how they want to spend their money, saving you the hassle of shopping for all the people on your list. They’re the perfect gift for any occasion, including those coming up—holidays and end-of-the-year employee rewards. To purchase a gift card or to find out more about the fees that apply when you purchase a gift card, please visit our website or your nearest branch.

VISA® and the name Visa are federally registered trademarks of Visa.

Community banking strikes a balance between personal touch and smartphone tech Oct 27, 2014, 8:10 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Rise of mobile banking prompts local banks to take a look at customer care 

The most-recent generation of Apple smartphones has arrived, and with it, a budding sense of excitement about how mobile technology stands to reshape the way we handle money.  New smartphone technology, including mobile apps for banking and financial use, has brought a new level of convenience to money management. More than half of smartphone owners are now taking advantage of banking and finance features with their new devices, and that number only continues to grow.

Many customers, however, fear they can only have the convenience of mobile banking at the expense of personal care offered by their local bank. While some community banks have been slow to adopt new mobile tech, Bank of American Fork tries to adopt the best mobile trends without forgetting its promise of small-town service.

Studies show that mobile banking, along with other mobile-phone financial services, has significantly grown in popularity among smartphone users. According to the 2014 Consumers and Financial Services Report, 51 percent of smartphone owners use mobile banking, and 12 percent of smartphone users who do not currently use mobile banking anticipate using it within the next 12 months.

People who use mobile banking like it because of the convenience, especially when depositing checks and keeping track of funds. Some people also feel more secure because their bank is in their pocket.

“Our society is on the go more than ever and banking needs to be at our fingertips,” said Richard Beard, president and CEO of Bank of American Fork. “Keeping up with technology and the wants of our customers means our banking apps should be easy to use, efficient, effective and provide a quality service to customers who might not have time to make a stop at the physical bank.”

Mobile banking empowers people with the freedom to bank how they want to rather than according to the bank’s schedule. For example, depositing checks—a task that used to require a branch and teller—can be done via mobile banking apps.

Mobile banking might be growing in popularity and technological development, but face-to-face assistance remains important for many customers. Community banks like Bank of American Fork preserve the relationship customers want and need, and the high level of customer service expected of community banks.

“Providing the best customer service is our highest priority, and is built into our purpose statement,” Beard said. “But we are also keenly aware of the wants and needs of our customers in terms of technological development and updates. That’s why we’ve made sure our mobile banking is up to date—whether a customer wants to view her account, transfer funds or deposit a check.”

Some banks struggle to preserve human contact with the increase of mobile banking. But Bank of American Fork retains personal-touch customer service. When customers make calls, they reach people—and without the frustrating sequence of pushing buttons and waiting for a long time before connecting.

Mobile banking is on the rise. While people may begin to prefe

r the ease of using their phones and tablets for many of their banking needs, Bank of American Fork is making sure its technology is promoting better customer service, not replacing it.

Bank of American Fork's history of innovation goes all the way back to having one of the first computers in American Fork, Utah, which guests were invited to come and see.

Neighborhood Watch: How local banks get security right Oct 20, 2014, 9:10 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Sense of community still a cornerstone in keeping customers safe

Amid a string of headlines revealing security breaches among high-profile retailers, banks across the country are working to ensure that their customers’ private information remains private.  But with the impersonal approach offered by national banks, some customers are finding that they feel more uncertain than ever about the security of their finances.  Big banks sometimes struggle in connecting with their customers as individuals with unique needs.  A bank headquartered on the east coast may lack the presence to personally attend to Rocky Mountain residents and their concerns.

As a local institution that has grown alongside the Utah Valley communities over the last century, Bank of American Fork understands the threats local customers face.  What’s more, the bank employs new technology to enhance the customer experience, not replace it.  Bank of American Fork’s strategy in combating fraud begins with a comprehensive awareness of potential threats, both online and off, while working closely with customers to offer them the tools and knowledge necessary to secure their finances.

Data compromises in recent months involving large retailers such as Target, Apple and Home Depot have only heightened people’s awareness of the real-world dangers threatening the safety of their savings.  Bank of American Fork’s layered security has minimized the risk to their customers, and the bank is proactive in identifying those who may be affected while working with them to take preventative measures such as issuing new cards and flagging suspect spending to ensure that their finances are still safe.

“We take the threat of identity theft very seriously because, as a local bank, these are our friends and family we’re working with,” said Blaine Crosby, Bank of American Fork’s chief information officer. “When a community entrusts us with their finances, we want them to rest easy knowing their money is secure.”

Bank of American Fork’s layered security extends to all its financial services.  This includes installing a number of safeguards at each point of transaction, including ATMs.  For example, at the start of 2014, 95 percent of ATMs across the nation were running on the Windows XP operating system.  Microsoft announced that they were discontinuing support for Windows XP, potentially opening a window for exploits by hackers.  Bank of American Fork was already in the process of transitioning its ATMs to Windows 7, and quickly had each of its machines up to date.  This ensured access to the latest updates and security patches and preempted the risks faced by other machines that were still running on outdated operating systems.  The ATMs routinely issue security alerts to report skimmers, hackers, or suspect transactions, and in the event that security reports show evidence of vulnerability, the ATMs can immediately be shut down remotely.

Additionally, Bank of American Fork is combating online fraud by offering Rapport™, a security solution for home computers provided through the financial security experts at Trusteer, Inc.  Rapport™ is a downloadable set of tools that works alongside existing firewalls and antivirus programs to help protect against phishing scams and malware.  The service, which is provided at no cost to customers through Bank of American Fork, works by monitoring for potential threats as customers handle their billing and transactions during online banking, and can be configured to help protect against threats on other websites that can serve as an entry point for malicious behavior.

The ways in which Trusteer’s Rapport™ software helps protect customers include:

• Warning users if they visit a fake website purporting to belong to Bank of American Fork,

• Preventing the collection of banking credentials and other sensitive information, and

• Protecting web browser communication to prevent malware from tampering with bank transactions.

 

The free software is simple to install, entirely transparent and does not interfere with normal computer use.  While use of this security software is not compulsory for Bank of American Fork customers, it is highly recommended.

Bank of American Fork is highly dedicated to security.  Attention to technological safeguards provides its customers with protection while still allowing for the personal touch of a local establishment with a strong sense of community.  Despite the ongoing threats facing a rapidly changing financial environment, Bank of American Fork, with the cooperation of its customers, is committed to providing them a high level of financial security, and with it, peace of mind.

Bank of American Fork improves customer experience with new teller pod Oct 14, 2014, 8:30 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Although the technology and services banks offer have evolved and changed over the years, relatively little has changed about the design of bank branches. You can usually expect to see a line of teller counters against a wall with tellers waiting behind. Bank of American Fork is revolutionizing community banking and the customer experience with its new technology and design at the St. George branch.

Bank of American Fork’s St. George branch, which opened in August, is unlike most other banks. Instead of a teller line, the bank features a teller “pod,” which is more accommodating to customers and provides flexibility to tellers.  Instead of a teller line, the pod is a table with computers that swivel at each end and is accessible from all sides, so tellers can interact directly with customers.  The pod allows customers to do more in one place and gets tellers out from behind a counter, where they can help customers better.

“I really like the new pod system and technology bar here at the St. George branch because it’s easier to interact with customers,” said Benjamin Smith, a teller for Bank of American Fork. “Instead of just describing what we offer, I can show them what our tools look like. When they decide which products to use, I can help them learn how to use those tools right here in the branch.”

The pod was created with a close eye to function, and is fully equipped to handle every service a customer would expect in a traditional line and window arrangement.  They feature a teller machine used to deposit and withdraw funds, reducing the chance of human error in cash transactions.

“This design allows for the progression of counting money to offering additional services,” said Richard Grow of DEI Incorporated, the architectural firm that designed the pods and flow of the St. George branch.  “In all of the retail world, they get up from the counter to come around and help customers, then return to the counter to finish the transaction. This is really taking retail into the banking world.”

This new design allows tellers to leave their stations in order to teach customers how to do online banking, discuss loans and mortgages or meet in private for various banking needs.

Besides the teller pods, Bank of American Fork has included a “learning center” equipped with various mobile tools customers might use for their banking needs. This center allows tellers and other bank employees to teach customers how to use, for example, an iPad® to do mobile banking. Customers are equipped with the knowledge they need in order to have smooth and secure banking via a mobile device.

“Banking needs to keep up with the lifestyles and desires of its customers,” said Brian Thompson, senior vice president at Bank of American Fork. “Moving forward, our branches will continue to evolve to benefit the customer experience. In terms of service, we want banking to be shaped around the customer’s needs and not by how things have traditionally been handled in banking.”

Bank of American Fork strives to create a banking experience that is both convenient and connects people. The new branch in St. George is one way to do just that.

Project Teddy Bear nationally recognized Oct 09, 2014, 8:20 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

ICBA spreads the word about Project Teddy Bear in your community

Sandy Dubois started Project Teddy Bear 15 years ago as a way for employees at Bank of American Fork to give back to their communities instead of giving gifts to each other during the holidays. Dubois is passionate about helping children, and she wanted the project to be about the at-risk children in Utah communities. That first year, customers, community members and bank employees donated a couple of hundred teddy bears to be taken to a family care center to be used in play therapy or for children taken from their homes and from everything they knew. Last year, during the 14th Annual Project Teddy Bear, you brought in more than 20,000 bears that served the children in care centers across Utah.

Every year Dubois and others hope the care centers will call and say there’s no need for the bears—that all of Utah’s children are being taken care of and none are victims of abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, so Bank of American Fork seeks the community’s help in increasing the number of donations every year.

Now, Project Teddy Bear’s national recognition from Independent Community Bankers of America’s 2014 National Community Bank Service Award will help spread the word and get more people involved in helping Utah’s children and children across the nation. Independent Banker magazine highlighted the project in its September issue and Dubois and Bank of American Fork invite any other bank or business to copy the model.

These girl scouts got involved with Project Teddy Bear by proactively collecting hundreds of bears in their community.

“The reason this recognition is important to us is because it helps the community,” said Richard Beard, president and CEO of Bank of American Fork. “Our local communities have helped more than 73,000 children simply by getting involved. Some people drop off one bear when they come in to make a deposit and we have others, like girl-scout troops, who take on the project and bring in hundreds of bears. Each donation matters, because each of those bears represents an at-risk child here in Utah.”

Project Teddy Bear will start its 15th annual collection beginning November 20. Drop off a bear at any of our 14 branch locations. We know you care about the children in your communities, so talk to us at www.facebook.com/BankAF or @bankaf to find out how you can be involved.

Talking about preventing senior financial abuse on Fresh Living Oct 06, 2014, 5:10 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Tracey Larson is Bank of American Fork’s resident expert on age-friendly banking, whose passion stems from being a daughter and daughter-in-law of senior parents. She’s currently the financial representative for the Governor’s Commission on Aging and is also a member of Provo’s Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Coalition.

We’ve talked here about the risk of elder financial abuse and how to mitigate that risk. Sometimes, though, the risk comes from careless or uninformed planning. The example Janeen Diamond brought up on Fresh Living last week was of a daughter who is a joint account holder on her senior father’s account. If the daughter goes through a divorce, Diamond asked, is the father’s money vulnerable? See the video where Tracey talked about the implications of joint accounts and how to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Detecting counterfeit money Sep 29, 2014, 11:02 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Recently, a customer came into one of our branches to deposit money from a very small, retail business. One of the $50 bills was counterfeit and we quickly realized that the counterfeiter took advantage of the fact that the receiving end of the bill was a young, inexperienced teenager, working his first summer job.

Another way a counterfeiter might scam people is with a stack of mixed bills for a KSL or Craigslist sale. A counterfeiter might buy your item from a re-sale site like KSL, and hand you a stack of $20 bills. Knowing you’ll likely notice if they’re all counterfeit, the counterfeiter will mix in fake bills in the middle, which you might skim by when you’re counting the money.

How can you avoid being scammed by counterfeit bills? Below are a few tips to help you.

Hold each bill up to the light. You should be able to see fibers, or threads, in the bills. Make sure you hold each one up, since some may be real and some may be counterfeit. You might feel silly at first, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!

What does the bill feel like? When you have a stack of bills, feel each one. Do any feel different than the others? Checking what the money feels like is one of the easiest ways to spot a counterfeit bill.

Think like a counterfeiter. Counterfeiters know better than to try and pass off fake bills at a bank. Counterfeiters typically try to launder counterfeit bills through fast-food restaurants, mall shops or other places where inexperienced teenagers won’t detect fake bills. If you’re a business owner, make sure all of your employees are trained on detecting counterfeit bills. Sometimes it helps to make sure they’ve seen and handled bills of different denominations. If you’re selling something on KSL or Craigslist or similar, make sure you’re wary of counterfeit bills.

Ask your banker. If you suspect something might be counterfeit, bring it to your banker’s attention. They likely have machines that help to detect fake bills and can check for you. Don’t try and hide it in a stack of bills.

Know your money. Visit the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing and check out the different security features on each of the old and new bills. The more familiar you are with these, the more difficult it will be for a counterfeiter to fool you.

Check out other resources. The Secret Service provides background information about currency security you might be interested in checking out.

As always, be wary and don’t be afraid to question a bill you receive. If you have questions, come talk to a banker in any of our 14 branches or call us at 800-815-BANK.

What Big Eyes You Have Sep 26, 2014, 6:10 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Be on the watch to prevent senior exploitation.

Family Caregivers: The Invisible Army Sep 25, 2014, 2:09 pm By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Ways to lighten the loan when helping with your loved one’s finances.

 

How to Build a $1,000 Emergency Fund in 10 Months Sep 23, 2014, 10:07 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Guest post by Katie Bryan, America Saves

Do you have $1,000 set aside for emergencies? If you already do, you could probably use another $1,000 in that account. Experts recommend keeping at least three months expenses in a reliable, liquid account – though even an extra $1,000 can be a life-saver. But finding $1,000 to save isn’t always easy. That’s why we’ve put together this four-step plan on how to save $1,000 in 10 months.

Get Started with These 4 Steps

  1. 1.       Find a Safe Place to Save Your Money – You will want to save your money in an account that you can access easily in case of an emergency. That means you should probably not keep this savings in a U.S. Savings Bond or in mutual funds. Choose a traditional savings account or a short-term certificate-of-deposit (CD), currently the most attractive accounts. (Early withdrawal penalties on a CD rarely lower the yield below that of a savings account.) Consider opening a new account or sub-account for this money so you’re not tempted to spend it. Most importantly, do not keep savings in a checking account, which pays no or low interest and is too easy to access.

 

  1. 2.       Save $100 a month – If you are already saving $100 a month, great! Skip to step 3. If not, you need to either earn $100 more a month or cut back in order to find that $100 to save. America Saves has a list of 54 ways to save money to get you started. It can also help to pay yourself first and save the $100 at the beginning of the month instead of waiting to see if you have money left over to save at the end of the month.

 

  1. 3.       Automate Your Savings – Setting up an automatic way to save is one of the best ways to save. Once you set it up, then it happens without having to think about it. Here are two ways to automate your savings. 1. Every pay period, ask your employer to deduct $100 from your paycheck and transfer it to a savings account. Ask your HR representative for more details and to set this up.  2.  Ask your bank or credit union to transfer $100 from your checking account to a savings account every month.  Talk to your local bank or credit union to set this up. Learn more about how automating your savings or bills can help your relationships.

 

  1. 4.       Watch Your Savings Grow for 10 Months – The final step is to sit back and watch your savings grow. How often do you look at the calendar and think it’s half way through 2014 already? The same will apply to your savings; Before you know it you will have that $1,000. They key is not to touch the money unless you have an emergency – that’s what the money is there for after all.  

Once you have at least $1,000 in your emergency account, continue your savings success and continue to build your emergency savings or apply that money to a new savings goal. Perhaps you have debt you need to pay down or want to save for a car or home.

No matter what you are saving for, America Saves can support you with tips and advice through emails and text messages. Sign up for these by taking the America Saves Pledge Today.

Katie Bryan works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at americasaves.org.

 
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