It’s Nice to Earn Twice


Earn Double Credit Card Points Now-6/30

The spring shopping season has begun – and we have something to make it even better. From now through June 30, earn double points when you shop with a Merchants Bank Visa ScoreCard Credit Card.

When can I earn double points?

Anytime you make a purchase or balance transfer between May 1 and June 30, 2018 with a Merchants Bank Visa ScoreCard Credit Card.

How will I earn double points?

It’s automatic. You’ll see double points applied when you log in to your account on and on your monthly statements for May and June.

What if I don’t have a Visa ScoreCard Credit Card yet?

Start the application process online now or visit your local Merchants Bank branch.

Visit our website to learn about the terms and conditions as well as the other benefits of our card, like our 0% APR introductory rate for the first six months and a great every day rate of 9.99% APR after that.

To learn more, contact our Credit Card department:

Congratulate New and Promoted Staff

New Staff

BenzingJenna Jenna Benzing, Teller, Caledonia

Jenna is a sophomore at Caledonia High School and enjoys painting and playing music.

FranxmanLisa Lisa Franxman, Market President, Rosemount

Lisa is a well-known and respected area banker. Before Merchants, she had been with Anchor Bank since 2000 and in 2011 became the president of the Farmington location. Lisa is an experienced commercial and SBA lender, and in 2015, she received the Exceptional Business Woman award from the Dakota County Tribune. Lisa is also very active in the community: she serves on the Executive Board of Hope for Tomorrow, the Board of Directors for the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce and is a member of the Dakota County Sheriff’s Citizen Advisory Council. Read more about Lisa here.

GiesNicole Nicole Gies, Teller, Onalaska

Nicole previously worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant at Bethany Riverside in La Crosse. She is currently attending the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. She moved to La Crosse two years ago after completing her associate degree at the University of Wisconsin Baraboo/Sauk County. Her major is accounting with a minor in health information systems.

NelsonTim Tim Nelson, Mortgage Lender, Lakeville

Tim previously worked at MidwestOne Bank as a Mortgage Banking Officer and at Wells Fargo as a Home Mortgage Consultant. He has resided in Lakeville for 20 years and has four children (two boys and two girls) ranging in age from 23 down to 16. Tim has been a youth football and baseball coach for the past 15+ years. In his spare time he enjoys golfing with his buddies at Legends in Prior Lake. Read more about Tim here.

RamirezJayro Jayro Ramirez, Teller, Rochester – Green Meadows

Jayro previously worked at Planet Fitness as an Assistant Manager and at Cub Foods as a Grocery Stocker/Cashier.

SannesLogan Logan Sanness, Teller, Spring Grove

Logan also currently works at Caledonia Care and Rehab as an Assistant Dietary Manager. She is taking online classes at Purdue Global where she is working towards her bachelors degree in Accounting. Logan has a dog and enjoys traveling, tennis, swimming, reading, hiking, sight-seeing and watching movies.

SarviBarb Barbara Sarvi, Teller, Winona – Downtown

Barb previously worked as a Teller and in operations and loans at Rushford State Bank. Barb is a Winona native who recently moved back to the area with her husband. She enjoys spending time with family, making hand-crafted cards, reading and walking outdoors.

SchlakTamara Tamara Schlak, Lead Teller & Customer Service Representative, Cottage Grove

Tamara rejoined Merchants Bank, Cottage Grove as a Lead Teller. Tamara previously worked as a Lead Teller in Cottage Grove from 2013-2015. She has worked as an Assistant Manager at Salon 80 and as a Manager at Sally Beauty since she left Merchants. Tamara and her husband, Michael reside in Cottage Grove and have seven children. Tamara has done hair for 20 years and is currently in the process of getting her first book published. She is excited to be back with her Merchants family.

StormKaleb Kaleb Storm, Commercial/Ag Banking Officer, Winona

Kaleb previously worked as a Commercial/Ag Loan Officer at Unity Bank in Rush City, Minnesota. He also worked as a Ag/Commercial Credit Analyst at Unity Bank in Augusta, Wisconsin. Kaleb was raised in Westby, Wisconsin and comes from a dairy farm background. He received his Finance degree from UW-Eau Claire. Kaleb enjoys hunting, fishing, and farming. Read more about Kaleb here.

HamiltonBJ B.J. Hamilton, Assistant Vice President/Mortgage Lender, La Crescent

B.J. had been a Mortgage Lender at Altra since 2013. Before that, he spent nearly ten years in Montana, both working in home lending for Montana banks and working as a project manager for a construction company. B.J. is involved in the area. He is a member of the La Crosse Area Builders Association and the La Crosse Area Realtors Association. Read more about B.J. here.

WoodsStephanie Stephanie Woods, Teller, Hastings

Stephanie has worked at Afton Alps, Subway and Wrisky Ranch. Stephanie is currently a senior at Hastings High School and is a PSEO student, majoring in Biochemistry/Pre-med. She enjoys playing volleyball, riding horses and loves to exercise.

Transfers and Promotions

GarmsDawn Dawn Garms, Assistant Vice President/Mortgage Lender, Onalaska

Dawn has been promoted from Mortgage Lender to Assistant Vice President/Mortgage Lender. Since joining us in 2013, Dawn has proven herself to be a highly efficient lender and has received many satisfaction surveys with very high ratings. Dawn has a B.A. degree in Finance and a minor in Real Estate from the University of Northern Iowa graduating Magna Cum Laude. She is active in the La Crosse Realtors Association, La Crosse Area Builders Association and the La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce.

FloresNora Nora Flores Moreno, Customer Service Representative, Rochester – Northwest Plaza

Nora transferred to a Customer Service Representative in Rochester – Northwest Plaza. She was originally a Teller in Rochester – Green Meadows.

What, Why and How: Merchants Bank Mortgage Underwriting

Mortgage Underwriting Team

Merchants Bank Underwriters (l-r): Chris Thrune, Angie Booher, Abbey Krumrie, Shelley Vondrasek, Teresa Ebersold, Lynn Corey, Shay Yackel, Kady Cada, Haley Schultz and Jenna Hartman.

Underwriting. A term you might not be familiar with, or if you are, one that brings to mind piles of documents and lots of questions. In this edition of our eNewsletter, we’re demystifying the underwriting process to help you understand why it’s important, essential and ultimately a beneficial part of the mortgage process.

“Underwriting is about assessing risk – the risk the Bank takes in loaning money, but also the risk the customer is taking by promising to pay back borrowed money. Our underwriters work hard every day to make sure applicants truly qualify for a mortgage and help guide them to smarter financial decisions,” says Underwriting Manager, Jenna Hartman.

But, first things first, where does underwriting fit in the mortgage process? Here’s a simple breakdown of the steps:

  1. Discussing Your Needs. You meet with a local lender to discuss your goals, budget and loan options. With your lender’s help, you select a home loan program.
  2. Pre-Approval Application. You apply for a mortgage pre-approval and provide the necessary paperwork to your mortgage lender. Pre-approval is a great first step to help you determine how much you can afford before you look for a house and show buyers you’re serious about purchasing a property or land.
  3. Pre-Approval Application Reviewed by Lender. The lender reviews your application and documentation.
  4. Pre-Approval Decision/Approval. After review, your lender determines if you qualify for mortgage pre-approval and how much you can afford. You’ll discuss your budget in more detail and prepare for your house search (or contractor search, if you’re building).
  5. House Hunting. Now comes the fun part! Once you have qualified, stay in touch with your lender during the building or house hunting process. Or, maybe you’ve already found the perfect home…then you’ll move on to step six.
  6. Application Reviewed by Underwriting. With the property selected, you provide additional documentation to your lender. From there, the Underwriting department at Merchants Bank, made up of nine employees based in Winona, MN, reviews your application, including all of the documentation you provided.
  7. Loan Decision/Approval. After careful review of all your documentation, the Underwriting department determines if you qualify for the home loan. The decision is communicated to you by your mortgage lender. If you are refinancing a current mortgage, you’re ready to sign papers.
  8. Buying/Building a Home. You finalize the details of the mortgage terms with your lender, who will also communicate with the realtor and/or sellers. Once terms have been agreed upon, you meet with all involved parties to sign the final paperwork.
  9. Moving In. Congratulations! Now that you’re moving in you’ll be busy making your house into a home and begin your mortgage payments. Our local Loan Servicing department will be with you throughout the repayment process to answer all your questions and help put you at ease. About a month after your loan closing, you’ll either receive your loan payment book or notice of your first automatic payment, whichever payment option you selected. If you are escrowing (putting money aside each month as part of your mortgage payment), for your property taxes and homeowner’s insurance the Loan Servicing department will pay those bills the next time they are due. Stay tuned for an article in our next eNewsletter with an inside look at Merchants Bank Loan Servicing and tips from our experts.

We’re with you from start to finish. This mortgage application process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the housing market.

The important thing to note is that while there are guidelines our Underwriting department must work within when reviewing loan applications, lenders, customers and underwriters can all work together to make the process go smoothly. Communication is key and another reason having local lenders and local underwriters is so beneficial to our customers. Jenna shares two common issues that can slow the loan process and how you can avoid them.

Acquiring New Debt

“One common issue we see is applying for or acquiring new debt – like a credit card – while our team is reviewing a loan application,” says Jenna.

She recommends consulting your lender prior to taking out new debt to avoid this hiccup in the loan process. “Even if you could save 25% at a department store or on furniture for your new home – it might not be worth it. Any new debt you take on during the loan process has to be documented and could affect if you qualify for the loan.”

Moving Money Between Accounts

Jenna adds, “[w]hen you move money from account to account or bank to bank, it can make our job to verify your financial assets more difficult.”

When your money is moved between accounts or financial institutions, it makes the paper trail to track the funds harder for the Underwriting team to verify. Many people don’t realize that verifying adequate liquid assets is part of the mortgage loan approval process. It’s all a part of the education we provide our customers. This problem can also be avoided by consulting your lender before you move any money.

If you have questions about the underwriting, or any part of the mortgage process, just ask your local Merchants Bank mortgage lender.

“Everyone in the Merchants Mortgage team is working hard for you – from the lenders to those of us behind the scenes. As underwriters, we know that when we approve a loan, there are people moving into homes and making memories. It’s such a rewarding process to be a part of.”

Additional Resources:



From the President’s Desk: Spring 2018


By Greg Evans, President & CEO

Spring has finally arrived… thank goodness! I hope you’ve already had time to enjoy the warmer weather and feel the more vibrant sun on your face.

With the warmer weather comes a natural uptick in everybody’s ability to be out, about and on the go. It’s a good time to be reminded that Merchants Bank delivers value-added personalized service and support for a number of consumer loan product offerings that it might be timely for you to be thinking about.

Home Loans with Personalized Service

This is a time of year when our business in providing financing for new home purchases and construction really picks up. If you or someone you know is in the market for a new home, be reminded that Merchants is a regional leader in residential mortgage financing.

There are dozens of options when it comes to home financing. Rates and terms with virtually all providers are similar. The critical difference in turning what can be an anxious process into a comfortable one is working with a home loan professional who is as committed to making the process as comfortable as you are wanting it to be. The team of mortgage bankers at Merchants is the primary reason we are a regional leader in making mortgage loans. Difference-makers are available in virtually all of our communities, and any of them would welcome the opportunity to work with you.

Another critical difference in securing a mortgage loan from Merchants is that you can count on the ongoing servicing of your loan to be retained by Merchants. We currently service 20,000 loans ($2.5 billion in balances). Those are big numbers, but that’s not what really matters to our customers. What matters is having a local, reliable resource to talk to in person when you have a question on your loan. Many of our competitors choose to sell the servicing rights when the loan is delivered to the secondary market. This makes a huge difference and our mortgage loan customers value the local, dependable service they can count on for the life of the loan.

Local Credit Cards

Having a dependable local contact also makes a huge difference when it comes to needing service on a credit card account. If you’re like me, you probably have at least a couple of credit cards in your wallet. If one of them isn’t a Merchants Bank credit card, you are surrendering that same local service benefit that brings value to our mortgage loan customers.

The credit card options available at Merchants Bank are extremely competitive as it relates to rates, terms and rewards…. In fact, I just returned from a trip to Napa Valley, California that was paid for using my reward points on my Merchants Bank credit card. The major difference, though, in using a Merchants Bank credit card is the local service. Local service includes the ability to make payments at any Merchants Bank location, the availability of dedicated credit card professionals to answer your questions, and the peace of mind knowing that people right here in this region are mindful in monitoring the trends related to credit card fraud security.

Mortgage loans and credit cards are just a couple of consumer loan options available at Merchants Bank. Our commitment to local service which delivers a real difference in support of those products also includes the consultative approach all of our bankers excel at in making sure that our customers borrow wisely when it comes to any form of consumer credit. If you would benefit from the value-added service from any of our bankers during the upcoming warm weather season, we would absolutely welcome the opportunity to discuss your needs. Make it an awesome Spring!

Mortgage loans and credit cards subject to credit approval.