Hope to See You at These May Events!

Merchants Bank, Community Events

Our staff invites you to join them at these great events throughout April. Be sure to follow us on our Facebook page for information on these events or pictures from other events you may have missed.

5/16 Spring Grove Syttende Mai Parade: 1:30 p.m.

Look for our Spring Grove staff as they celebrate our five-year anniversary during the Syttende Mai parade.


5/16 Armed Forces Day Recognition: 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
At Merchants Bank in St. Charles

Please join us for cookies and refreshments in our lobby to honor those in our military.


Concerned About FDIC Insurance Coverage for Your Business?

Merchants Bank, CDARs, ICS

Deanna Ellinghuysen, Merchants Bank Customer Service Representative and CDARS/ICS expert, explains the details and benefits of CDARS (Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service) and ICS (Insured Cash Sweep) accounts.

Q: How does a CDARS or ICS account work?
Deanna: CDARS, a Certificate of Deposit account, and ICS, an insured cash sweep account, provide additional FDIC insurance for deposits in excess of $250,000 – the standard insurance amount set by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Your money is automatically deposited in amounts of less than $250,000, which allows for compounding of interest, through a network of pre-selected, highly rated banks. This ensures that your entire amount on deposit is FDIC insured.

Q: Why would my business open a CDARS or ICS account?
Deanna: If your business has over $250,000 worth of excess funds and is concerned about FDIC insurance, a CDARS or ICS account is for you. If you want to protect your large deposits with FDIC insurance…these two products are the tools. It’s really about peace of mind. In addition, if you’re publicly funded, a CDARS or ICS account could help you avoid the extra bookwork associated with pledged funds.

Q: What are the terms rates for CDARS and ICS accounts?
Deanna: CDARS accounts are similar to other certificates of deposit at Merchants Bank. Businesses can choose a term from four weeks up to three years. The rates follow our CD rates by market and can be found at merchantsbank.com.

ICS accounts allow for more flexibility because it works like a savings account. Businesses can make unlimited deposits, there is no minimum balance and six withdrawals are allowed per month. Current rates can be found at merchantsbank.com.

Q: How do I open a CDARS or ICS account for my business?
Deanna: You can contact the Customer Service Representative at your local Merchants Bank to start the process. We open it for you and the distribution of funds to other banks is automatic. We like to say these accounts are great because the customer works with one bank, has one rate and gets one statement. It’s that simple.

To learn more about CDARS and ICS for your business, contact us.

CDARS and ICS accounts are also available for individuals. Ask us for more details.

When Can I Retire?

Merchants Bank, Trust, Nate Birkholz

Trust products may not be FDIC insured. Please ask a Trust expert regarding FDIC insurance coverage as it relates to Trust products.

The most common question I’m asked is “Can I retire?” Of course, the biggest concern we hear is regarding the amount of money that’s set aside for retirement… “I have to dig into this bucket. I hope the bucket is big enough.” Here’s how the Trust Department tackles this tricky question on a daily basis.

Q: How will I know when I can retire?
A: There are a few factors you need to consider when building your retirement timeline: your income, spending habits, assets and retirement goals. We can build a snapshot of where you are now and then help you determine how you’ll get to where you want to go. People have different retirement goals…some people want to travel; some people want to see their money grow; some want to visit their grandchildren in different states every year. Once you pull together all these details, it’s easier to put dates and timeframes to your retirement.

Q: When is the best time to create a comprehensive retirement plan?
A: You should begin the deep planning of your retirement three to five years before you plan to retire. It’s important to take a comprehensive view of your retirement at this time, with a focus on your income, spending habits, assets and specific retirement goals.  Our Trust Department can help you create this comprehensive plan and also manage your portfolio to make sure we meet your retirement goals.

Q: What questions will be answered by my comprehensive retirement plan?
A: Through our planning process we can answer a number of questions, including:

  • How will I handle the “what if” scenarios? If I lose money, if I gain a large inheritance, etc.
  • How much more do I need to save and how do I get there?
  • Do I need to continue working and for how long?
  • Which accounts should I take my retirement money out of and when?
  • How charitable can I afford to be?

Planning doesn’t answer every question, but it does help us make informed decisions.

Your Money Working for You
We want to put together plans that help people take as little risk as possible and still accomplish their goals. It’s hard to go from working for money to money working for you, but we are here to help you manage that transition.

I would encourage anyone that’s working to be actively engaged in their retirement planning. Look at the retirement calculators on our website to get a picture of your retirement, be aware of how much you’re saving and the balance of your retirement accounts. Our trust department is also a great resource, and we would be happy to help you. Don’t hesitate to contact us today.

What is Mortgage Pre-Approval and Why Does it Matter?

Merchants Bank, Mortgage, Pre-approval

In 2014, approximately a third of Merchants Bank customers who applied for a construction or mortgage loan also took the step to get pre-approved. While mortgage pre-approval should be a crucial part of the home buying process, buyers don’t always perceive it as necessary or valuable.

What is mortgage pre-approval?
Mortgage pre-approval is a simple application process that can be completed in person or online to determine if you qualify for a mortgage. Your credit and income information are the main factors in determining qualification. If you do qualify, a pre-approval will also let you know the mortgage amount qualify for.

Why should I get pre-approved?

  1. Find your house faster.
    Mortgage pre-approval will give you a clear picture of the type of home you can afford. You’ll be able to narrow your housing search to homes within your price range and save yourself the heartache of falling in love with a house outside of your price range.
  2. Know your potential expenses.
    With a pre-approval, you’ll have a set loan amount you’ve been approved for prior to property selection. Your pre-approval should also determine how large of a down payment will be needed. In addition, make sure to take into account other potential housing expenses such as a home inspection, fees (realtor, appraisal, filing fees, etc.) and taxes. With all of this information, you’ll be able to make accurate predictions for your housing expenses and mortgage payment.
  3. Have confidence and move quickly when making an offer.
    Some of the best homes can sell quickly and if you don’t have your paperwork in order, another person may make an offer on your dream home before you can. With pre-approval you avoid the hassle and can have confidence that you’re putting in your best offer. Plus, sellers appreciate the assurance that comes with buyers who are already pre-approved for a mortgage.

Interested in applying for mortgage pre-approval? Visit our website to start the process online or your local Merchants Bank.

Subject to credit approval.

Meet Dawn Garms, Mortgage Lender at Merchants

Garms,DawnWhen did you start your banking career?

Dawn: I started as a mortgage Lender with Altra in 2001. I was there for twelve years and then came to Merchants in 2013.

What is your top tip for a first time home-buyer?

Dawn: Get pre-approved first. Pre-approval helps you determine the maximum amount you can spend to purchase a home. You can also go over what to expect for monthly payments, down payments and other mortgage options with a lender at that time. It really gives you a clear picture of what you can afford and how that fits into what you’re comfortable with for your personal monthly budget.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Dawn: The best thing they taught me is the importance of knowing your finances. Know what you can handle so that you are comfortable in your monthly budget.

If you won the Powerball, what’s the first thing you would do?

Dawn: I would travel all over Europe for an extended period of time, and explore all of the different countries.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Dawn: The green of fresh trees on a mountain hike.

What’s one lesson you learned when buying your own home?

Dawn: Use a lender that is knowledge so they can guide you through the process. Buying a home should not cause a headache…it should be a smooth, pain-free process.

Subject to credit approval. Contact Dawn today to get start the application process for mortgage pre-approval. To find current mortgage rates and apply online, visit our website.

Meet Tom Stahl, Senior Consumer Banker at Merchants

StahlTomWhen did you start your banking career?

Tom: I’ve been in lending with Merchants Bank since December 1988. I started at the Winona location and worked there for two years. Then I moved to La Crescent in January of 1991 and have been here ever since.

What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to apply for a HELOC?

Tom: Do your homework. A HELOC is basically a big credit card with a lot better rate, but the rate can change and some customers don’t understand that. It’s also good to have a firm dollar amount that you’re going to need for your home improvements.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Tom: Simply, don’t spend what you don’t have. Don’t overextend yourself. Borrow responsibly.

If you won the Powerball what’s the first thing you would do?

Tom: I’d set a charitable foundation up. I know that sounds kind of funny, but it’s truly what I’d do. It would be a nice opportunity to give back.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Tom: The grass at Target Field. I love baseball.

If you could start a home remodeling project right now, what would it be and why?

Tom: A sunroom….it would be somewhere to relax.

Contact Tom today to start the application process for your Home Equity Line of Credit. For more information on HELOC options at Merchants Bank, visit our website.

Meet Connie Fort, Assistant Manager of Consumer Loans at Merchants

Connie and her husband, Tim

Connie and her husband, Tim, at the Grand Canyon

When did you start your banking career?

Connie: Twenty-six years ago I started at Merchants in Winona as a Commercial Lending Assistant. I knew that I wanted to get into lending, so I switched and became a Customer Service Representative. I stayed in Customer Service for seven years and then became a Credit Analyst. During that time, I learned that I was the kind of person who wanted to be in front of customers. A few years later, the Consumer Lender position opened up and I’ve been here for ten years now. Before Merchants, I worked at a brewery in La Crosse…can you believe that?

What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to apply for a HELOC?

Connie: Make sure to check your credit rating. There are a few websites that allow you to download a free credit report and you can bring in the report and we can go through it together. It’s also helpful if you come with an idea of how much you want to borrow and then together we can determine how much equity you have in your home.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Connie: To save, save, save. You do not buy anything until have saved for it. My parents were very frugal with their money and they passed that on to me and my two sisters.

If you won the Powerball what’s the first thing you would do?

Connie: I would buy a cabin up north. We love to be outdoors…just canoeing or spending time on the lake. It’s just an awesome way to relax and forget about everything.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Connie: When I think of green, I think of Spring and the pretty trees and blooming flowers.

If you could start a home remodeling project right now, what would it be and why?

Connie: I want to change my bedroom because we don’t have a master bath. We’ve found out that when we have family visiting and we have to share the same bathroom it can become difficult.

Contact Connie today to start the application process for your Home Equity Line of Credit. For more information on HELOC options at Merchants Bank, visit our website.