Protect Your Identity During the Holidays or Any Time of Year


The importance of protecting your personal identity became clearer with the recent Equifax data breach where the personal information of more than 143 million Americans was compromised. If you haven’t checked yet, you can still do so at and clicking “Am I Impacted?” If you have more questions, feel free to call us.

Let Merchants Bank Make Sure You Have the Right Tools

Your security is top of mind at Merchants Bank. We have a number of ways to help you protect yourself with our SecurLock Equip app for your Merchants Bank credit card and My Mobile Money app for our debit card. These apps are very similar.

With SecurLock or My Mobile Money you can:

  • Turn your Merchants Bank credit card or debit card on and off.
  • Control where your credit card or debit card can be used.
  • Receive automatic notifications about possible fraud and take action.

More on SecurLock and My Mobile Money can be found on our website.

Plus, if you use Merchants Online Banking, consider using the “Alerts” functions to monitor activity. To set up automatic alerts, follow the steps outlined in our video tutorial. Alerts can be sent to an email address or via text message.

Best Practices to Use When Shopping Online During the Holidays:

  • Change your passwords often. Use a mixture of numbers, letters and special characters. Don’t use the same passwords for multiple accounts.
  • Be suspicious. Thieves will use calls or emails to trick you into sharing passwords, social security numbers, etc. If you don’t recognize the caller or email, don’t reply.
  • Don’t click on links in emails from your credit card companies, investment companies or banks that would have you update account information. Remember, Merchants Bank will never ask you to update your personal information via a link in an email. When suspicious, call the company at a number you confirmed in a separate source, like a phone book or prior statement.
  • Make a fraud kit. Keep a list of your credit and debit cards, account numbers, expiration dates and customer service of fraud department telephone numbers in a secure place.
  • Read through your credit card bills. If you see a charge you don’t recognize, call and get the charge reversed.
  • Don’t use the “remember password” option. It makes it easier for someone to access your accounts.
  • Do NOT keep a list of passwords in an unprotected document on your devices or written down in an unsecure place.
  • Never save your credit card number online. If that site gets breached, you are at risk. Enter your information each time you make a purchase.

If you’re traveling or spending the winter somewhere else, let us know by contacting your local Customer Service Representative so we can make sure you have the best service.

If you make purchases in a state or country where you don’t normally use your Merchants Bank debit or credit card, we may think these transactions are fraudulent unless we know otherwise. Let us know the dates of your trip, your travel locations and how we may be able to contact you.

If you have additional questions, please contact us. We’re happy to help.





Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Announces Earnings of $8.84 million Through the Third Quarter of 2017


Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) announced net income of $8,841,114 through the first three quarters of 2017, according to MFGI President & CEO Gregory M. Evans.

Evans said MFGI is enjoying both commercial loan and deposit growth, and mortgage loan volume also continues to be strong.

“Our core business continues to perform very well and drive our profitability,” Evans said. “Our community bankers continue to build our business by providing our customers guidance, convenience and excellent service across all of our locations.”

Net income is behind 2016’s pace, when MFGI had record earnings. Evans said that in alignment with MFGI’s conservative approach, $1.4 million was set aside for additional loan loss reserves in the third quarter. MFGI also made adjustments to loan loss reserves in each of the first two quarters of 2017. To date in 2017, MFGI has put aside more than $3.4 million in loan loss reserves to cushion against possible future loan stress, most notably in the ag sector. Evans said actual loan charge-off activity is negligible.

Evans reported the MFGI Board of Directors approved retaining a 56-cent per share dividend during its October meeting. MFGI stock continues to perform well, trading at $62.35 per share, compared to $48.75 a year ago.

“We are optimistic about the remainder of our year, and we expect continued good results,” Evans said.

MFGI owns 21 Merchants Bank locations, including Minnesota locations in Winona, St. Charles, Goodview, Rochester, Rushford, Lanesboro, 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. Additionally, MFGI also owns Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance, a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.

The ownership of Merchants Financial Group is made up of its 440 employees and its shareholders, mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.

Merchants Bank in Lakeville Raises $700 for Lakeville North and Lakeville South


Kristin Vlasak, Dan Vlasak, Eddie Araujo, Alejandra Hernandez-Silva, Kelly Donohoe, Mark Kragness, Jim Louwagie.

Attendees at the Lakeville North and Lakeville South football game September 22 enjoyed delicious Dairy Queen Blizzards and were able to support both schools with $700 thanks to Merchants Bank.

Merchants supplied and served the Blizzards at the game and donated all the proceeds from the sales to the schools.

“We are passionate about supporting our community and the game brings a lot of community members and customers out,” said Dan Vlasak, President of Merchants Bank in Lakeville. “We are glad we were able to see so many people we know, and the schools were able to benefit.”

Merchants Bank in Lakeville has been supporting the Lakeville schools for a number of years through fundraisers at the North and South game.

Merchants Bank has 21 locations, including the southern Twin Cities metropolitan suburbs of Lakeville, Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings and Rosemount.  Other Minnesota locations include Winona, St. Charles, Caledonia, Spring Grove, Rochester, Rushford, Lanesboro, La Crescent, Cannon Falls, Red Wing and Hampton. Wisconsin locations are in Eau Claire and Onalaska. Twin Cities-based Merchants Bank Equipment Finance is also a division of Merchants Bank, N.A.

Better, Safer and Faster Movement of Your Money


Effective September 15, 2017, a new rule went into effect allowing for faster processing of debits from your financial accounts. Virtually all types of electronic payments will now be eligible to be processed on the same day they are authorized.

For example, types of affected payments could include:

  • A paper check you write, which is then scanned at the business for electronic processing
  • Online payments
  • Payments made via the telephone

This means that payments could clear your checking (or savings) account on the same day you write the check or authorize the payment. What does this mean to you? We encourage you to make sure funds are available in your account before you authorize transactions to avoid unnecessary insufficient funds fees.

Please note: This new electronic payment processing rule does not affect how debit card payments are authorized or processed.


Behind the Scenes with Our Credit Team


Startup Stock Photos

If you’ve worked with Merchants on a loan for your business, you know our Commercial Bankers have a team of people assisting them in the loan process. You may have even heard them mention a Credit Analyst, who would review your financial information.

Our Credit Analyst team plays an important part in the loan approval process. So we’re giving you a behind the scenes look at their role and what kind of expertise they bring to our commercial banking team.

How is a Credit Analyst involved in my application for a business loan?
Our team of 11 Credit Analysts assist in determining your credit worthiness and ability to pay back a loan. Upon application, your financial information is given to a Credit Analyst, who reviews all the details and provides a credit presentation to your Commercial Banker.

“Our job is to assess repayment ability of credit obligations and determine overall financial risk. This information helps the Commercial Banker decide on next steps,” said Chris Duellman, SBA Lending and Credit Underwriting Manager. “Our ultimate goal is to help the borrower gain loan approval, but we also need to identify potential risks – that’s why we review so many details about the business and business owners. We look at the full picture to create our report to the Commercial Banker.”

In some instances, you may also meet with one of our Credit Analysts and a Commercial Banker to collect your financial information. A face-to-face conversation is sometimes the best approach to obtaining all the details needed to gain a full understanding of your business.

What expertise does a Credit Analyst bring to the business banking team?
Most of our Credit Analysts have an accounting or finance degree and/or related job experience. In addition, they are well-trained on all different types of credit to be able to fully assess your business’s situation. Day in and day out, they work with the financial details of businesses of every size and industry – their incredible depth of knowledge is an asset to you, your Banker and the entire commercial banking team.

Because Merchants Bank provides many loans for agricultural businesses and farms, three of our Credit Analysts specifically concentrate on ag requests. Having grown up on farms or worked on farms, these Credit Analysts provide an additional level of expertise and insight when reviewing an ag loan.

How do I benefit from a Credit Analyst reviewing my loan application?
Talking with your Commercial Banker and Credit Analysts can give you more insight into the financial side of your business.

While gathering your financial information, the Credit Analysts may ask questions your business might not have ever considered. Or, the Analysts might even pinpoint some financial areas where your business could make improvements by working with your accountant or in-house finance department. In addition, tapping into the Credit Analyst industry-specific knowledge can be a bonus for your business.

“We’re here to provide an additional level of financial understanding and support to both the business and the Commercial Banker,” said Duellman. “It’s our job as part of the commercial banking team to help our business customers thrive.”

To learn more about business financing options at Merchants Bank, visit our website:

Amy Gutierrez Completes Training at School of Trust and Financial Services

Amy Gutierrez, Trust Administrative Specialist

Merchants Bank Trust Administrative Specialist Amy Gutierrez, J.D., recently completed the Schools of Banking School of Trust and Financial Services class. The class was held August 21-25 in Manhattan, KS.

“Most valuable to our clients here at Merchants Bank was what I learned about estate administration and retirement planning, especially as it relates to looking at the big picture and what is best for those clients over a long period,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez completed training in Trust Administration, Fiduciary Income Tax, Estate Planning, Retirement Planning, Investments, Conservatorships and Special Needs Trusts, Probate, Compliance and Trust Accounting and Securities Processing.

She said what she learned will assist clients in their wealth management planning for their children, grandchildren and for supporting the philanthropic needs of their community.

The Schools of Banking is located in Lincoln, Neb., and is a jointly owned subsidiary of the Kansas and Nebraska Banking Associations. The School of Trust and Financial Services was held in partnership with a number of state bankers associations, including the Minnesota Bankers Association.

“It was great to be in a class where everyone was going through approximately the same experience and same timing in the Trust departments where they worked. We had the same types of questions, and that enhanced the learning for all of us,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez has been working in the Merchants Bank Trust Department since late Spring and has been with the Merchants Bank organization for nearly three years. She has a law degree from Northern Illinois University, a master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University, and an undergraduate degree from Winona State University. She is from Witoka and is a graduate of Winona Senior High School.

The Merchants Bank Trust Department helps individuals and families establish comprehensive wealth plans that identify their needs, goals, and resources for retirement. Trust services may include portfolio management and estate planning, as well as acting as an agent under power of attorney or as personal representative for estates.

Annette Bleninger, CTP, Joins Merchants Bank as a Cash Management Officer

Annette Bleninger, Cash Management Officer

Annette Bleninger, a Certified Treasury Professional (CTP), has joined Merchants Bank as a Cash Management Officer for Merchants’Twin Cities locations, according to Lawrence Stovern, Twin Cities Regional President.

“Annette’s knowledge, relationships and ability to connect with both our customers and our employees serving those customers will be a tremendous benefit to everyone involved. As we continue to grow and focus on Cash Management, this important aspect of our business will be a significant contributor to our overall growth in the Twin Cities,”Stovern said.

Bleninger has more than 15 years of banking experience in sales, customer service and operations in Cash Management. She has worked with customers of varying sizes to help them determine the products and services that will help them most effectively manage their short term funds. She said she is looking forward to working with customers and bankers across Merchants Bank’s Twin Cities locations.

“This is an excellent opportunity for businesses across the Twin Cities. Merchants’Cash Management offerings are comprehensive and more than competitive with larger banks,” Bleninger said. “The additional benefit Merchants offers is it is a community bank that is truly focused on the needs of its customers in the particular markets those businesses may call home.”