Myths About Home Equity Lines of Credit

Merchants Bank, Home Equity Loans, Home Equity Lines of Credit

You may be able to use the equity in your home to your advantage with a Home Equity Line of Credit, or HELOC. While the idea sounds simple, the details of a HELOC can be confusing. Here are a few common HELOC myths explained.

Myth: A Second Mortgage and a Home Equity Line of Credit are the same thing.
There are two types of loans that use the equity in your home as collateral. They are either a Second Mortgage (also known as a Home Equity Loan) or a Home Equity Line of Credit. Each works differently and which loan type works best for you is often determined by the purpose you have chosen to take out the loan. The interest rate the bank charges on either of these can take several factors into account, such as your credit score, the loan to value or the loan type.

A Second Mortgage, or Home Equity Loan, is simply borrowing money, using the equity in your home to secure the loan, much as a personal loan may use the equity in a car to secure the loan.

A Home Equity Line of Credit is a revolving loan that works very much like a credit card. The equity you have in your home secures a credit line with a variable interest rate that is available to you for a certain amount of time (usually ten years). The monthly payments are determined by how much money you owe the Bank, not by how big the line of credit is. As you pay down the amount you owe on your line of credit, the rest is available for other uses. The line of credit works well for do-it-yourself projects or a series of projects because you only make payments on the money you’ve already used.

Myth: I can only use my HELOC on purchases for my home.
A Home Equity Line of Credit can be a great way to get that new roof or finally finish the lower level, but it can also be used to buy a new car or to pay for a college education. The flexibility of a HELOC means you can make your home equity work for current financial needs. In addition, the interest you pay on a Home Equity Loan or Home Equity Line of Credit may be deductible on your federal tax return. The interest you pay on car loans, credit cards and almost all other loans definitely is not. We suggest you consult your tax advisor regarding interest deductibility.

To learn more about Home Equity Lines of Credit, visit our website or contact your local Merchants Bank today.

Loans are subject to credit approval.

Credit Card Processing is “Quick, Concise and Thorough”

Merchants Bank, Credit Card Processing

David Wilson, President of Winona Golf & Dining.

That’s how David Wilson, President of Winona Golf & Dining, describes his experience with Merchants Bank and merchant processing to take care of credit and debit card transactions at the expanding business, which includes Signatures Restaurant, The Grill at Signatures, Visions Event Center and The Bridges golf course.

Looking to the future

The experience has been so good that Winona Golf & Dining and Merchants are partnering to offer mobile card processing, allowing golfers to use credit cards or debit cards to quickly pay for beverages while on the golf course.

“We are working together so we can enhance the experience for our guests and so Merchants can bring something new to its customers. It would have been easy to say ‘we don’t have that,’ but instead the response we received was ‘let’s see how we can make that happen.’”

David’s advice

“If you’re looking to do anything with a financial institution, don’t do it before you first check with Merchants Bank. I’ve worked with people at all levels of the organization. Everyone goes out of their way to make sure that their customers are truly taken care of. That’s what we try to do too.”

Visit our website to learn more about credit card processing for your business.

Loans are subject to credit approval.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Reports Year to Shareholders and Re-elects Directors

Rod Nelson, President/CEO

Rod Nelson, President/CEO

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) held its annual meeting Thursday, April 9, formally reporting income to shareholders and re-electing four members to the MFGI Board of Directors.

MFGI President & CEO Rodney R. Nelson reported that the organization had an exceptional year, recording $12,349,695 in net income in 2014. It was MFGI’s second best year in terms of income, less than $100,000 behind 2012’s net income of $12,439,492.

“Our shareholders deserve this good news made possible by the positive work of our employees and the continued support of our valued customers,” Nelson said. “We look forward to a successful 2015.”

Re-elected to three-year terms as Directors were: Michael F. Cichanowski, Chief Executive Officer, We-no-nah Canoe, Inc.; Richard J. Pope, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, WinCraft, Inc.; Timothy A. Murphy, Partner, Rippe, Hammell & Murphy; and Bruce E. Ryan, President, Ryan Windows & Siding, Inc.

Nelson, Chief Financial Officer Sue Savat, Merchants Bank President and Chief Banking Officer Greg Evans and Chief Information Officer Rodney Nelsestuen were featured speakers.

MFGI has more than $1.5 billion in assets and holds 21 Merchants Bank locations, including Minnesota locations in Winona, Rushford, Lanesboro, St. Charles, Goodview, Rochester, Caledonia, La Crescent, Spring Grove, Cannon Falls, Red Wing, Hampton, and the southern Twin Cities metropolitan suburbs of Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings, Lakeville and Rosemount. Merchants has Wisconsin locations in Eau Claire and Onalaska. Merchants Bank was founded in 1875. All banks are FDIC members and equal housing lenders. Merchants Capital, the company’s leasing arm, is based in the Twin Cities.

Merchants has more than 425 employees, many of whom give significant volunteer time to organizations in their communities. Additionally, during 2014, Merchants Bank made charitable donations to nearly 300 organizations. The ownership of Merchants Financial Group is made up of its employees and mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.

Meet Andrea Lisowski, Consumer Loans Manager at Merchants

From l-r: Andrea's friend, Linda; her husband, Jeff and Andrea take in Lambeau Field.

From l-r: Andrea’s friend, Linda; her husband, Jeff and Andrea take in Lambeau Field.

When did you start your banking career?

Andrea: It will be thirty years this June. I have been very fortunate during my time here. I started at Merchants a floater, basically going between a few different departments like bookkeeping and proof. After that I was afforded the opportunity to learn several different positions, including being a Teller, working in our Loan Servicing Department and also as a Customer Service Representative. I’ve been in Consumer Lending for 25 years. This department has a lot of experience…we’ve all been all here a long time and have a great knowledge of several different departments.

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

Andrea: Think about a HELOC as something that can meet your immediate and future needs. You need to have a longer term thought process in mind, because it’s a flexible product that has many possible uses. You may need a new roof this year, but will you have any house updates next year or the year after that? Do you have a child going to college in the near future? I believe our HELOC is one of the best products that we offer. If you’re disciplined in your borrowing, it’s an option that could make a lot of sense for you.

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

Andrea: If you don’t have the money, you don’t buy it. They also taught me the Envelope Saving plan. It does work if you stick to it!

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

Andrea: My husband and I have always wanted to do a “stadium tour.” Buy luxury RV and go with some friends around the country to different baseball or football stadiums. That would be fun.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Andrea: The green turf of a football or baseball field. My husband and I have enjoyed many great memories of our kids on the field!

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

Andrea: I would do a bathroom remodel. We’re limited in space and we only have one bathroom. I’d make our current bathroom larger and add on another where we could fit it.

Loans are subject to credit approval.

Contact Andrea 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.

Jason Monfre Joins Merchants Bank in Rochester as a Mortgage Lender


Jason Monfre has joined Merchants Bank as a mortgage lender, according to Merchants Bank in Rochester President John Doyle.

“Jason’s ability to connect with people and understanding of the mortgage industry will allow him to guide customers to a mortgage that is the right fit for their needs,” Doyle said. “He will be an asset to our organization because our customers will benefit from what he can offer to them.”

With more than 10 years of experience in the mortgage industry in Wisconsin, Nebraska and Minnesota, Monfre said he’s excited to help Rochester area residents with their mortgage needs.

“I couldn’t be happier to be in this position at Merchants Bank, where I can develop strong and lasting relationships and, at the same time, provide customers with a top of the line product that meets their housing and borrowing goals,” Monfre said.

Monfre has a long history of volunteering in the community, especially in mentoring young people in recovery from drug and alcohol addictions, and in coaching youth baseball. Monfre has bachelor’s degrees in both Psychology and Economics from the University of Minnesota. He played Division I baseball at Indiana University and the University of Minnesota.

Cheesy Hash Browns Recipe



  • 32 oz. package hash browns
  • 16 oz. sour cream
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese



Mix all ingredients and place in greased pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour.


Merchants Family Cookbooks are available at all Merchants Bank locations for $15. Proceeds benefit local food shelf programs.

Meet Mike Swanson, Senior Consumer Lender/Branch Manager at Merchants

Mike and his wife, Julie.

Mike and his wife, Julie.

When did you start your banking career?

Mike: This is my fifteenth year in banking. I actually started as a teller in high school and then transitioned to a Construction Liaison after I graduated. From there I became a Personal Banker, an Assistant Manager, and a Branch Manager. I came to Merchants three years ago as a Personal Banking Officer and am now a Senior Consumer Lender/Branch Manager.

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

Mike: Be patient throughout the process and stay informed. There are a lot of rules and regulations around HELOCs and so we need ask a lot of questions and get a lot of documentation. The details of a HELOC – how it can be used, payment options and more – can also be confusing to customer as well. Make sure to ask your lender plenty of questions.

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

Mike: Treat credit as a privilege and not a right. No one owes me an opportunity to take out a loan or a credit card. Treat money and credit with respect.

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

Mike: Pay off my and my wife’s student loans. After that, we’d want to travel. We have always wanted to go to Ireland. My wife studied there in college and I’d like to experience that with her.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Mike: My wife’s eyes.

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

Mike: We have the start of bathroom in the basement that I would finish. The basement has a nice living room that was there when we moved in, but someone started to build a bathroom and never finished it. It’s that lingering project that came with the house.

Loans are subject to credit approval.

Contact Mike 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.