Is a Money Market Savings Account Right for You?

Person putting coin in piggy bank

Determining whether a money market savings account is right for you depends on your financial goals, risk tolerance, and other individual circumstances. Below are some factors to consider when deciding if a money market savings account is a suitable option for you.

Short-Term Savings Goals

If you have short-term savings goals, such as building an emergency fund, saving for a vacation, or accumulating a down payment for a major purchase, a money market savings account can be a good option. It offers liquidity and stability while providing a higher interest rate compared to a traditional savings account.

Risk Tolerance

Money market savings accounts are relatively low-risk investments compared to stocks or long-term bonds. If you prefer to minimize the risk of losing your principal investment and prioritize capital preservation, a money market savings account can align with your risk tolerance.

Need for Liquidity

Consider your need for access to funds. Money market savings accounts offer easy access to your money, allowing you to make withdrawals, online transfers, or in-person transactions. If access is important to you, a money market account might be a better option that investments that tie up your money for a specified amount of time.

Talk With Your American Federal Banker

Ultimately, whether a money market savings account is right for you depends on your individual financial situation and goals. Talk to your American Federal Banker for personalized advice based on your specific circumstances so you can make an informed decision about your savings.

Avoiding Tax-Related Scams

Tax Related Scams

Tax season can be a stressful time for many individuals and businesses. Unfortunately, it’s also a prime opportunity for scammers to prey on unsuspecting taxpayers. With the rise of digital communication and sophisticated tactics, tax scams have become increasingly prevalent. However, arming yourself with knowledge and awareness can be your best defense against falling victim to these schemes.

Tax scams come in various forms, but some of the most prevalent ones include:

Phishing Emails

Scammers send emails posing as legitimate organizations such as the IRS or tax preparation software companies, asking recipients to click on links or download attachments that contain malware or request personal information.

Phone Scams

Fraudsters impersonate IRS agents and call taxpayers, demanding immediate payment for taxes owed or threatening legal action, arrest, or deportation if payment is not made.

Identity Theft

Thieves steal personal information, such as social security numbers or bank account details, to file fraudulent tax returns and claim refunds.

Fake Charities

Scammers set up fake charities to solicit donations from taxpayers, promising tax deductions for contributions that never benefit legitimate causes.


Protecting yourself from tax scams requires vigilance and caution. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind:

Verify Communication

The IRS typically communicates with taxpayers via postal mail, not email or phone calls. Be wary of unsolicited emails or calls claiming to be from the IRS. Never provide personal information over the phone or via email.

Use Reputable Tax Preparation Services

If you use tax preparation software or services, make sure they are reputable and secure. Avoid unknown or unverified tax preparers, especially those who promise unusually high refunds or charge exorbitant fees.

Secure Your Personal Information

Safeguard your personal and financial information by using strong, unique passwords for online accounts and avoiding sharing sensitive data on unsecured websites or over unencrypted connections.

Be Skeptical of Demands for Immediate Payment

The IRS will never demand immediate payment over the phone or via email, nor will they threaten legal action, arrest, or deportation for unpaid taxes. If you receive such a call or email, it’s likely a scam.

Monitor Your Accounts and Credit Report

Regularly review your bank and credit card statements for unauthorized transactions and monitor your credit report for any signs of identity theft or fraudulent activity.

Tax scams are a serious threat that can result in financial loss and identity theft for unsuspecting taxpayers. By staying informed, remaining vigilant, and following the tips outlined above, you can protect yourself from falling victim to these fraudulent schemes. As always, don’t hesitate to contact your American Federal banker with any questions.

The Importance of Having a Passcode on Your Mobile Phone

Phone Lock Graphic

Our lives are intertwined with technology, and our smartphones contain a treasure trove of personal information. From sensitive emails and messages to financial transactions and family photos, the data stored on our mobile phones is invaluable and, unfortunately, vulnerable. One simple yet powerful way to protect yourself and your smartphone is by setting up a passcode. Why is this important?

It Helps Prevent Identity Theft

With the rise of digital connectivity, identity theft has become a prevalent threat. Without a passcode, anyone can potentially gain access to your email, social media accounts, and more. A passcode acts as a barrier, thwarting attempts to impersonate you and preventing unauthorized access to accounts that could lead to identity theft.

It Helps Secure Your Financial Information

Mobile phones are increasingly used for financial transactions, and without a passcode your financial information is at risk. Fraudsters could potentially access your accounts and actually move money out of them. Setting up a secure passcode ensures that even if your phone falls into the wrong hands, access to your financial accounts is restricted, protecting your hard-earned money from potential theft.

Preventing Unauthorized Purchases

Many mobile users link their devices to app stores and online marketplaces. Without a passcode, unauthorized individuals, especially children, may inadvertently make purchases using your accounts. A passcode acts as a safeguard, preventing unintended transactions and saving you from potential financial headaches.

Safeguarding Confidential Work Data

For professionals who use smartphones for work-related tasks, a passcode is essential for protecting sensitive business information. From emails to documents, a passcode ensures that your work-related data remains confidential and inaccessible to prying eyes.

Deterrence Against Theft

A passcode not only protects your data, but also serves as a deterrent against theft. Thieves are less likely to target smartphones with passcodes, as the added security makes unauthorized access more difficult, which reduces the appeal of stolen devices.

Lock it Up!

Setting up a passcode on your mobile phone is not just a routine security practice; it’s a proactive step towards safeguarding your digital identity, financial well-being, and personal privacy. As we navigate the intricacies of the digital age, let a passcode be your first line of defense in securing the gateway to your digital world.

If you need assistance setting up a passcode for your please contact your local office

Avoiding Spring Break Travel Scams

Tropical Beach

As spring approaches, many are eagerly anticipating the much-needed break that comes with it. For college students and families alike, spring break offers a chance to unwind and explore new destinations. However, it’s crucial to remain vigilant against potential scams that can make a dream vacation turn bad.

Spring break travel scams come in various forms, targeting unsuspecting travelers who may be too caught up in the thrill of the moment to notice red flags. From fraudulent accommodations to fake tour packages, here’s what you need to know to safeguard yourself against these scams:

Bogus Accommodation Listings

One of the most common scams involves fake accommodation listings on popular booking websites. Scammers create enticing listings for vacation rentals or hotels at unbeatable prices. However, once payment is made, the accommodation either doesn’t exist or it’s not as advertised. To avoid this, always book through reputable websites and read reviews from previous guests.

Phony Travel Packages

Be wary of travel agencies or websites offering all-inclusive spring break packages at unbelievably low prices. These deals often come with hidden fees, poor accommodations, or nonexistent amenities. Before booking any package, research the company thoroughly, check reviews, and verify its legitimacy.  

Fake Excursions and Tours

When booking excursions or tours at your destination, be cautious of overly aggressive vendors or tour operators. Some may promise exclusive experiences or low prices to lure tourists, only to deliver subpar services or disappear with your money. Stick to reputable tour companies recommended by trusted sources, such as your hotel or well-known travel websites.

ATM Skimming

While traveling, be vigilant when using ATMs, especially in tourist-heavy areas. Skimmers can install devices on ATMs to steal your card information, compromising your bank account. To minimize the risk, use ATMs located within banks or reputable establishments, and always cover the keypad when entering your PIN.

Wi-Fi Scams

Public Wi-Fi networks in airports, cafes, or hotels can be breeding grounds for hackers looking to steal personal information. Avoid accessing sensitive accounts or making online purchases while connected to unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Instead, use a virtual private network (VPN) for added security or rely on your mobile data. 

Identity Theft

Whether booking flights, hotels, or activities online, always use secure websites with HTTPS encryption. Avoid sharing sensitive information, such as your Social Security number or passport details, unless absolutely necessary. Monitor your bank and credit card statements regularly for any unauthorized transactions. 

While spring break is a time for relaxation and adventure, it’s essential to remain vigilant against potential scams that can ruin your vacation experience. By staying informed, researching thoroughly, and trusting your instincts, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable spring break getaway. Remember, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Stay safe and have a fantastic spring break!

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your local office

How Do Interest Rates Work When Building a Home?

someone being counseled on financing a home

Building a home is a big commitment, and interest costs can play a major factor in deciding if and how much to build. We’re often asked about how exactly interest rates work when building a home.

Construction – A Two-step Process

Generally, home construction is a two-step loan process: you will have a construction loan for financing the construction costs and a permanent loan financing the home itself. Each loan will have its own interest rate. 

During the construction phase, you will typically be responsible for interest-only payments calculated on the amount of the construction line advanced at that time.  During the permanent phase, you will be paying principal and interest based on the full loan amount.

Your banker will provide you with information regarding which type of permanent financing (fixed-rate or adjustable-rate) makes the most sense for your situation.

Many borrowers want to lock in an interest rate on their permanent loan.  In many instances this is possible as early as nine months prior to project completion.  Your banker will spend time talking about long term rate lock options and what may make the most sense for you.  Payments will vary depending on what you choose.

Your American Federal Banker will answer your questions to ensure that you know you’re making the best decisions for your situation.

Selecting a Contractor

When building a home, one of the first and most important decisions you will make is selecting your general contractor.  The contractor is the person (or company) that will keep your project moving and work with you throughout the building process.  The following are some questions to consider or actions to take when weighing your options:

  • Do they finance the construction, or do you have to? If they do, you may be able to have a lower down payment requirement with the bank. This is often referred to as a turn-key purchase.
  • If you are responsible for the construction financing, ask if there are discounts available for you carrying the interest expense during the building phase.
  • What are the down payment and/or earnest money requirements with the contractor?
  • How many years of experience do they have? Do they have referrals? Consider touring some of their previous builds.
  • Negotiate finish-on-time penalties. Many general contractors will guarantee a close-by or finish-by date. If they are not met, the contractor is responsible to pay the borrower a pre-determined amount.

We’re Here to Help!

If you’re interested in learning more about home construction loans, or any other mortgage products, contact your American Federal Banker.

American Federal Employees Earn ‘Sales Star’ Recognition

Eighteen American Federal Bankers and employees have earned ‘Sales Star’ recognition from American Federal Bank for outstanding sales and sales referral performance in 2023.

A “Sales Star” is the highest honor of recognition an employee can earn at American Federal. American Federal’s 2023 Sales Stars are:

  • Cindy Ackley – Moorhead
  • Adam Braunberger – Fargo Downtown
  • Paul Craigmile – Hallock
  • Daniel Erdman – Crookston
  • Brian Frisk – Crookston
  • Matt Heinzen – Fargo Home Office
  • Jason Jaeger – Fargo Downtown
  • Michael Jaeger – Crookston
  • Andrew Lerud – Fargo Downtown
  • Stephanie Overgaard – Crookston
  • Dan Paulson – Fosston
  • Ryan Paulson – Fosston
  • Alison Perez – Grand Forks
  • Erin Pollestad – Hallock
  • Spencer Rehovsky – Moorhead
  • Christopher Schenck – Fargo South
  • Patrick Stadum – Fargo Downtown
  • Jon Swenson – Hallock

In recognition of their achievement, American Federal “Sales Star” employees and their families were invited to attend a weekend Sales Star Retreat, training seminar and awards banquet in their honor at the Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center in Alexandria, MN January 26-28, 2024.

Employees Compete in Six Divisions

Throughout the calendar year, every employee at American Federal competes in one of six Divisions in the Sales Star Recognition Program. The winners for the respective divisions for 2023 were:

Ag/Business Banker – Adam Braunberger, Fargo
Private Banker – Alison Perez, Grand Forks
Personal Banker – Erin Pollestad, Hallock
Sales Manager – Dan Paulson, Fosston
Business Unit Referral – Michael Jaeger, Crookston
Home Office Referral – Matt Heinzen, Fargo

Congratulations to the Division winners and all Sales Stars!

Triangulation Fraud: Protect Yourself this Holiday Season

Woman shopping online with laptop

Fraudsters are constantly finding innovative ways to exploit vulnerabilities and steal your money. One fairly new method gaining prominence is triangulation fraud, a deceptive practice that puts both consumers and businesses at risk. In these final days before Christmas, remember to be extra careful when shopping online.

What is Triangulation Fraud?

Triangulation fraud involves a fake retail website set up by fraudsters, an unsuspecting customer, and a legitimate retailer. Here’s the basic process:

  1. Fraudsters create a fake retail website that attracts unsuspecting customers with name-brand products at ‘too good to be true’ prices.
  2. Once a customer places an order, the fraudsters purchase the desired product from a legitimate source using stolen credit card information from a previous shopper.
  3. The customer’s credit card is billed for the ‘too good to be true’ price and the item is shipped from the legitimate seller to the customer. This creates the illusion of a genuine transaction.

If the customer receives the item, why is this bad?

This is bad for a number of reasons. First off, the fake retail site is using stolen credit card information to complete the transaction. Second, if you’re the customer in this scenario, the fake retail website now has your credit card information as well, which will be used in future fraudulent transactions, both to rip you off and to fool other customers. Likewise, customers fooled into thinking that this is a legitimate transaction often leave glowing reviews on the fake retail site, thus perpetuating the scam. The scam also causes reputational damage to legitimate retailers and erodes overall trust in online transactions.

Why is it more common during the holiday season?

Criminals typically schedule the scheme for the holiday season because merchants are less alert to suspicious delivery behavior. It is not uncommon for gift purchases to be shipped somewhere different than the billing address. Likewise, shoppers are typically more concerned about if they received the item as oppose to from where it was shipped.

How to protect yourself:

Be alert! Consumers should exercise caution when encountering online deals that seem too good to be true. Thoroughly research the legitimacy of the e-commerce platform and check for customer reviews before making a purchase.

Use secure payment methods whenever possible. Credit cards often provide additional layers of protection against fraudulent transactions, so they are typically safer than debit cards for online transactions.

Report suspicious activity. If you come across a suspicious website or believe they have fallen victim to triangulation fraud, report the incident to relevant authorities and their financial institution.

Triangulation fraud poses a significant threat to both consumers and legitimate businesses operating in the online marketplace. As technology evolves, so too do the tactics of fraudsters. Awareness, vigilance, and education are crucial in combating this type of deception. By staying informed and taking precautionary measures, you as a consumer can protect your money while contributing to the collective effort to create a safer online environment.

Your Bank is Calling… Or Are They?

woman checking her balance on her phone in a cafe

In 2022, scammers stole over $8.8 billion from regular people. Don’t become their next victim.

Phishing via calls and texts are more prevalent than ever. Watch for these four red flags:

  1. They ask you to open a link
  2. They use urgent or fear-inducing language
  3. They request personal info like PINs, passwords, Social Security numbers, or access codes delivered through email, text or voice
  4. They pressure you to log into or send money with payment apps

Phone Call Scams

Scammers sometimes try to cheat you out of your money by impersonating your bank over the phone. In some scams, they act friendly and helpful. In others, they’ll threaten or scare you. Scammers will often ask for your personal information or get you to send them money. Banks never will.

Watch out for a false sense of urgency

Scammers count on getting you to act before you think, usually by including a threat. Banks never will. A scammer might say “act now or your account will be closed,” or even “we’ve detected suspicious activity on your account” — don’t give into the pressure.

Never give sensitive information

Never share sensitive information like your bank password, PIN, or a one-time login code with someone who calls you unexpectedly — even if they say they’re from your bank. Banks may need to verify personal information if you call them, but never the other way around. Your bank will never ask for your PIN, password, or one-time login code in when calling you.

Don’t rely on caller ID

Scammers can make any number or name appear on your caller ID. Even if your phone shows it’s your bank calling, it could be anyone. Always be wary of incoming calls.

Hang up – even if it sounds legit

Whether it’s a scammer impersonating your bank or a real call, stay safe by ending unexpected calls and directly dialing your bank instead.

Text Message Scams

Phishing text messages attempt to trick you into sharing personal information like your password, PIN, or social security number to gain access to your bank account. As long as you don’t respond to these messages and delete them instead, your information is safe. All you need to do is spot the signs of a scam before you click or reply.

Slow down – think before you act

Acting too quickly when you receive phishing text messages can result in unintentionally giving scammers access to your bank account — and your money. Scammers want you to feel confused and rushed, which is always a red flag. Banks will never threaten you into responding, or use high-pressure tactics.

Don’t click links

Never click on a link sent via text message — especially if it asks you to sign into your bank account. Scammers often use this technique to steal your username and password. When in doubt, visit your bank’s website by typing the URL directly into your browser or login to your bank’s mobile app.

Never send personal information

Your bank will never ask for your PIN, password, or one-time login code in a text message. If you receive a text message asking for personal information, it’s a scam.

Delete the message

Don’t risk accidentally replying to or saving a fraudulent text message on your phone. If you are reporting the message, take a screenshot to share, then delete it.

The bottom line: be careful!

Always be diligent when dealing with your money and access to your accounts. Remember that it’s OK to question the motives of someone contacting you unexpectedly. And as always, never hesitate to contact your local American Federal office with any questions or if something seems suspicious.

Avoiding Common Holiday Scams

Lighted laptop keyboard

The United States Department of Treasury’s Office of Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Protection recently issued an advisory with tips for consumers to protect themselves from scams and fraud. From Cyber Monday to the rest of the holiday shopping season and beyond, it’s a good list of practices to follow to keep your money and information safe.

Follow these tips to avoid common holiday scams:

  • Buy only from reputable merchants.

  • Stay informed of common scamming tactics, share your knowledge with others, and remain skeptical of unsolicited calls, emails, and texts, especially those creating a sense of urgency.

  • Exercise caution when receiving unexpected phone calls and emails from your financial institutions, unsolicited texts, and embedded links. Confirm the legitimacy of requests by directly contacting the requesting entity through official channels.

  • Practice safe online behavior. Be cautious about the information you share online. Avoid oversharing personal details on social media platforms.

  • Don’t be pressured to purchase an item or pay for a service quickly. Take time to think, research, and talk to someone trusted. Fraud and phishing scams often capitalize on creating a sense of scarcity or fear of missing out. Legitimate businesses will give you time to decide.

  • Regularly monitor your financial and card credit statements for unauthorized or suspicious transactions. Report any discrepancies to the credit card or financial institution immediately.

  • If an online deal looks too good to be true, it likely is. Be suspicious. Scammers often offer products at significantly reduced prices. If a luxury item or an electronic device is offered at an extreme discount, it’s likely counterfeit or will never be delivered.

  • Don’t give out personal or account information to anyone who calls.

  • Don’t rely on caller ID. Criminals can fake their identities and locations on phone calls.

  • Never pay someone who insists you pay via a gift card or using a money transfer service. Also, never deposit a check and then send money back to someone.

  • Use a credit card to pay for online purchases. As required by law, credit card companies provide a fraud liability guarantee which limits liability for unauthorized charges to $50 ($0 if the card was stolen and the card company is notified prior to purchases being made).

  • Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). Strengthen the security of your accounts with 2FA, making it harder for attackers to gain access.

  • Never allow permissions to an unknown app and use different passwords for each downloaded app.

  • When using money transfer services, be certain to validate who you’re sending money to and their contact details.

The Role of a Reliable Banker when Buying a Home

People shaking hands

Purchasing a home is one of the most significant financial decisions you’ll make in your lifetime. It’s a complex process that requires careful planning, precise financial management, and access to the right resources. One of the most crucial partners you’ll need in this journey is a reliable banker.

Expert Guidance on Financing Options

A reliable financial advisor like your American Federal Banker possesses a deep understanding of various mortgage products, interest rates, and financing options. They can help you navigate the complex landscape of home loans, explaining to you the pros and cons of each option. Whether you’re considering fixed-rate, adjustable-rate, or government-backed loans, a knowledgeable banker can guide you to the financing solution that best aligns with your financial goals.

Pre-Approval for Better Negotiation

Obtaining pre-approval for a mortgage is a critical step in the home buying process, and a reliable banker can assess your financial situation, including your credit score, income, and debt-to-income ratio, to determine how much you can afford. This pre-approval strengthens your position as a buyer, allows you to negotiate confidently, and demonstrates to sellers that you are a serious and financially capable buyer.

Personalized Financial Planning

At American Federal, we go beyond merely providing a mortgage. We’ll work with you to create a personalized financial plan that considers both your short-term and long-term goals. This might include discussing the impact of the mortgage on your overall financial health, advising you on down payment strategies, and helping you understand the costs associated with homeownership.

Problem Solving and Support

Sometimes, unexpected challenges can arise during the home buying process. Perhaps there are issues with the property appraisal, or your financial situation changes. Your American Federal Banker will be your advocate, helping you navigate these challenges and providing solutions to keep the purchase on track.

More than a Mortgage

Working with a reliable banker is not just about securing a mortgage – it’s about gaining a trusted partner who will guide you through the complexities of the home buying process, provide expert advice, and look out for your financial interests. As you embark on your home buying journey, count on your American Federal Banker to ensure that you make one of life’s most significant investments with confidence and peace of mind.