Our Community Banking Commitment

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A few weeks ago, Merchants Bank was recognized by the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce at its annual Business Celebration Luncheon as the Business of the Year for 2017. Eligibility for this distinction was based on a comprehensive assessment of outstanding achievement in all five of these categories:

  • Economic Development
  • Workforce Development
  • Environmental Awareness
  • Business Achievement
  • Community Engagement

While this specific recognition was isolated to Merchants’ contributions to the vitality of the Greater Winona area, the documented achievement for the categories identified above as part of the nomination process was based on the collective team effort that is contributed to by every one of my teammates in each of our markets throughout the entire region.

At Merchants, we do what we do not for the purpose of accolades and recognition, but simply to contribute to the economic well-being of our communities and the financial success of our clients. That said, we sincerely appreciate this recognition by the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce. Most gratifying was the fact that quantifiable achievements in each of the five categories of the nomination was representative of business as usual for the Merchants organization during the past year, not the result of nonrecurring incidents of extraordinary achievement.

In accepting the award at the recognition banquet in May, I articulated that at Merchants we have a fundamental philosophy as it relates to our commitment to community banking: Simply, we know that when our clients and communities thrive and prosper, we, too, will do well. That approach has served us well for more than 140 years, and it’s what drives the commitments we make to providing active community leadership.

It’s an appropriate time of the year to share with you the importance we place on active community involvement and engaged leadership in each of our markets. With the arrival of summer, it becomes festival season for this entire region. That means you won’t have to look real hard to see visible signs of the extraordinary involvement in community activities that all of us at Merchants take great pride in demonstrating.

Community leadership is a critical differentiating component of the Merchants Brand. The members of our employee team are truly humbled by the opportunity we have to serve the needs of our clients and communities. Again, when our clients and communities prosper, we know we, too, will do well. And in the case of the recent Chamber award, I would add that when one wins, we all win! Thank you for your continued trust and confidence. It’s your loyalty that allows us to continue to do great work in our communities!

Design a Simple Wellness Program

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Do you wish your business could encourage healthy habits for your employees? Creating a wellness program might sound like an overwhelming task, but it helps to start small.

Each year, Merchants Bank provides a simple walking program to all employees and we’re sharing our tips to help you start your own.

1. Determine Logistics

There are several pieces you need to have in place before kicking off your walking program. Answer these questions:

  • How long will the program last? Typically, we’ve run our wellness competition for six to eight weeks.
  • What walking goals are realistic? You can set step goals by day or week, depending on how you’d like to run your program. We like to have tiers to encourage employees at every fitness level to have an attainable goal. For example, in our last challenge we had goal options of 8,000; 11,000; 14,000 and 17,000 steps per day, per person.
  • How will results be tracked? It works best if your employees can track their steps and report it to a central place, which for us is the Human Resources department. The HR department then records the data in an Excel spreadsheet for the duration of the program and tallies the total steps to determine program winners.
  • What is my budget? Running a walking program takes staff time, but it also takes dollars. You’ll want to budget for incentives/prizes (ideas below) and determine if requiring a registration fee makes sense to help you offset costs. In our most recent walking program, we had 102 participates and spent about $6 per person on prizes. In addition, we asked participants to pay $5 to register for the program.

2. Make Participating Easy

Once you have the above details in place, you want to make participating as simple as possible for your employees. For example, how can they sign up for the program? At Merchants, we email all staff about the program and provide a Word document that they can fill out and return to our HR department.

You’ll also want to make tracking steps easy and inexpensive. We ask our employees to have a pedometer or step-tracking device or use a step-tracking app and then email their weekly steps to HR. Pedometers are a reimbursable item through our wellness program, so employees who don’t own one can purchase a pedometer for the program and be reimbursed up to a certain dollar amount.

3. Create Incentive

It’s easier to encourage employee participation if you can provide them with an incentive, even if it’s small.

Merchants has always given out prizes for our walking programs, from grand prizes at the end of the competition to smaller weekly prizes. Some examples include gift cards, fitbits or healthy snacks. Plus, each participant also receives a walking program t-shirt, partially covered by our registration fee.

It also helps to have the camaraderie and encouragement of co-workers. Our Human Resources department has found that the walking program is more successful when employees sign up with a partner or team instead of competing as individuals. Typically for group challenges, we have participation from between 25-35% of all employees.

So why is all of this important? Having a wellness program can benefit your business and your employees in many ways, including:

  • Lowering health care costs
  • Build a sense of community and team atmosphere
  • Improve productivity
  • Reduce employee injuries

Ready to get started? For ideas and helpful resources on starting a wellness program for your business, we recommend the following resources.

Please note through these resources you will be linking to another website not owned or operated by Merchants Bank, NA. Merchants Bank, NA is not responsible for the availability or content of this website and does not represent either the linked website or you, should you enter into a transaction. We encourage you to review their privacy and security policies which may differ from Merchants Bank, NA.

 

Source: *http://www.healthfitnessrevolution.com/top-10-benefits-of-a-workplace-wellness-program/

Save the Date for Economic Summits

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Are you interested in learning more about the economic development outlook and innovative projects in Southeast Minnesota? Merchants Bank invites you to save the date for two upcoming events.

Southeast Minnesota Economic Summit – Rochester, MN
The third annual Southeast Minnesota Economic Summit will be held on Thursday, September 7 as economic experts and industry executives share their economic expectations, specifically regarding the manufacturing industry, for 2018.

As a banking leader in the region, Merchants is proud to partner with the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce as the pinnacle sponsor of the Southeast Minnesota Economic Summit.

Mark your calendars and contact the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce for more information at (507) 288-1122 or visit their website.

  • Date/Time: Thursday, September 7 from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • Location: Rochester International Event Center, 7333 Airport View Dr. SW, Rochester, MN 55902
  • Price: $30 for Chamber members, $40 for Non-members, $300 for a table of six

Winona Economic Summit – Winona, MN
This year’s Winona Economic Summit will focus on the theme “Building a Better Business Climate.” Join us on Tuesday, September 26 for several speakers, including Senator Jeremy Miller, and panel of experts who will discuss new solutions for workforce issues in our area, the Minnesota economy, local housing issues and more.

Merchants Bank is also proud to partner with the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce as the main event sponsor of the Winona Economic Forum.

Mark your calendars and contact the Winona Area Chamber of Commerce for more information at (507) 452-2272 or visit their website.

  • Date/Time: Tuesday, September 26 from 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • Location: Tau Center, 511 Hilbert St., Winona, MN 55987
  • Price: $40 for Chamber members, $60 for Non-members

Fraud and Scam Updates for May

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Review our most recent fraud alerts and updates to help keep your personal information secure. Want to be automatically updated about recent scams and fraud? Sign up for our Alerts emails here: http://bit.ly/1G1dF0n

Internal Revenue Service Scam

Some of our customers have fallen for a recent scam involving fraudsters posing as employees from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The fraudster will call you – stating to be an Internal Revenue Service employee – and claim you owe back taxes, which can be paid via wire transfer.

The truth is that the IRS does not use phone calls to make personal contacts. If the IRS wants to contact you, they will send a letter first. If you receive a phone call from an individual claiming to be from the IRS, it is a scam. For more information on how and when the IRS might contact you, see these two articles from the Federal Trade Commission:

Check Fraud

Merchants has recently seen an increase in fraudulent checks. Customers have fallen for some “too good to be true” scenarios including being asked to be a secret shopper for a fake business or receiving a winnings check in the mail from a drawing they did not enter. When you receive a check, make sure to consider where it came from.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Did I recently enter any contests or drawings where I could win money?
  • Can I verify the information on the check through a third-party? For example, can you confirm a person’s contact information through the phone book? Or confirm a business’s information through an online directory like the Yellow Pages?
  • Does it sound too good to be true?

Be a skeptic. If the situation doesn’t sound right, it’s time to do some more investigating before depositing that check. For more information, read this article on check fraud from the Federal Trade Commission.

Next Steps If You’ve Experienced Fraud

If you think your bank account information has been compromised or you are a victim of identity theft, contact your local Merchants Bank and ask to speak to a Customer Service Representative.

May & June Events

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Join our staff at these great events throughout May and June. Be sure to follow us on our Facebook page for information on these events or pictures from other events you may have missed.

5/5 Lakeside Neighborhood Appreciation Night
5:00 -7:30 p.m.
Merchants Bank in Winona-LakesideFor eighteen years, we’ve had the privilege to serve the neighborhood with our full-service Lakeside office at Mankato & Sarnia. So that we may say thank you for your friendship, join us for Neighborhood Appreciation Night!Please join us for food, fun & prizes* for you and your family. Tacos will be served with all the fixings.
6/2, 6/9, 6/16, 6/23, 6/30 Hampton Dairy Days Celebration
8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Merchants Bank in HamptonPlease join us for treats in our lobby to celebrate Dairy Days. 
6/5-6/9 Apple Valley Customer Appreciation and Christian Elder Memorial Bike Ride Reception
Lobby Hours
Merchants Bank in Apple ValleyPlease join us in our lobby:

  • Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for refreshments and coffee
  • Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. for pizza from Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom
  • Friday for a reception at 11:45 a.m. celebrating the riders from the 12th annual Christian Elder Memorial Bike Ride followed by lunch from 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
6/11 Trinona Triathlon
Lake Park in Winona
6/16 Caledonia Dairy Days Celebration
11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Merchants Bank in CaledoniaPlease join us for ice cream treats in our lobby to celebrate Dairy Days. 
6/17 27th Annual Winona Pancake Breakfast
7:30 – 10:00 a.m.
Merchants Bank in Winona-Downtown$5.00 per person • $17.00 per family • Children 6 and under FREEOpen to the public. Parking available in Bank parking lot, located at the corner of Third and Walnut Streets. Enter by driving East on Second Street.
6/17 Cottage Grove Strawberry Fest Parade
10:30 a.m.
Located on the corner of 80th and Jamaica Streets 
6/18 Winona Steamboat Days Grand Parade
12:31 p.m.
Located on Broadway Street in Winona 
6/23 Spring Grove Dairy Days Celebration
11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Merchants Bank in Spring GrovePlease join us for ice cream treats in our lobby to celebrate Dairy Days. 
6/24 Spring Grove Homecoming Days Parade
1:30 p.m.
Located on Main Street in Spring Grove
6/25 Brownsville Days Parade
1:00 p.m.
Located in Brownsville 

*No purchase or customer relationship necessary to enter or win. One entry per person. Drawing will be held on May 5, 2017. Must be present to win. Employees of Merchants are not eligible to win.

Your Top HELOC Questions Answered

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You may be able to use the equity in your home to your advantage with a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). While the idea sounds simple, HELOCs can be confusing. Get the basics here.

What is a difference between a Second Mortgage and a HELOC?
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.

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.

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. 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.

Each loan works differently and which one may be best for you is often determined by your purpose for taking out the loan. The interest rate the bank charges on these loans typically takes several factors into account, such as your credit score, the loan to value or the loan type.

What is Loan-to-Value?
As mentioned above, loan-to-value is one of the factors taken into consideration when determining the loan interest rate. To calculate your loan-to-value, add the amount you want to borrow to the unpaid balance of your mortgage then divide that number by the appraised value of your home. The result will be a percentage that is referred to as the Loan-to-Value of your home. The lower the percentage, the lower your interest rate may be. 

Can I borrow more than the value of my home?
While some mortgage lenders offer loans that often will go over 100% of your home’s value, we don’t think it’s a good idea. Borrowing in that manner will make it difficult, if not impossible, to sell your home should you want, or need to move.

Can I use a HELOC for something other than home improvements?
Yes. 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 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.

What’s the next step?
If you’re interested in learning more, check out these HELOC resources:

What We Love About My Mobile Money

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Haven’t heard of our FREE My Mobile Money app? It’s an easy tool to track your debit card transactions and help prevent fraud. Learn more about it from our staff experts with this quick Q&A.

Featured Staff

  • Tina Bechtel, Customer Service Representative and Lead Teller in Spring Grove. Phone: Samsung Galaxy
  • Michelle Schroeder, Customer Service Manager in Cannon Falls
    Phone: Apple iPhone
  • Mike Swanson, Commercial Banking Officer in Hastings.
    Phone: Apple iPhone

What’s the best thing about My Mobile Money?
Michelle: I love getting notified of every single debit card transaction.

Tina: Do I have to pick one thing? I love everything about it!

Mike: I like the ability to turn my debit card on and off. The control is in my hands.

Which features have you found most helpful?
Mike: My wife and I have used the on/off for our debit card more than once. If one of us misplaces our card…leaves it in the car, forgets it on the counter or something else, we can just turn it off on the app until we find it. If our cards really were lost, it would prevent anyone else from using them. It’s just nice peace of mind.

Tina: I’ve been able to detect and stop fraud right through the app. I have notifications turned on for all my debit card transactions and one day I got a notification for a charge that I didn’t recognize. I went into the app and turned my card off and called the Bank right away. Turns out the transaction was fraudulent and because I caught it and turned off my card, I was able to stop other fraudulent transactions that were being attempted.

Michelle: I’ve had great experience with the on/off function too. I went on a trip to Florida and didn’t want my debit card on. I just went in the My Mobile Money app, slid the on/off setting to off and that it was it. It was that easy. I also really like seeing the notification for online automatic transactions, like Netflix. Sometimes you forget about those and now I get a little notification when the charge goes through.

What additional feature would you recommend customers try?
Tina: Like Michelle, I’ve used the location feature and that’s really handy. You just set up if you only want to allow transactions based on a city, region or state. Transactions attempted from outside that area are then automatically denied.

Mike: If you have more than one person on an account, like my wife and I have a joint checking account, you can have the My Mobile Money app track both of your debit cards on one phone. One time my wife was trying to buy groceries and I got a notification at work that her transaction was denied. I realized that I hadn’t moved our budgeted grocery money over to the right account and was able to use Merchants Mobile Banking to transfer funds so she could finish checking out at the grocery store. That was really handy.

Michelle: I can’t say enough about the automatic notifications for all transactions. You could set this up to only notify you for transactions over a certain dollar amount, but I love seeing everything that goes through my debit card. It’s perfect.

You can download My Mobile Money Access for your personal or business debit card anytime from the Google Play or Apple App stores. To learn more about My Mobile Money Access, visit our website.

If you have questions about downloading the app or would like additional recommendations on it’s use for you or your business, contact your local Merchants Bank and ask to speak to a Customer Service Representative.