Did You Know - You can access your Home Equity Line of Credit through Online Banking?

Spring is in the air! If you are a homeowner, that means its time to get started on the growing list of home improvements and repairs you’ve been planning. If you have a Home Equity Line of Credit from First County Bank, you know you have the funds – but did you know you can access your line through Online Banking?

That means, if you are heading to the local home improvement store or landscaping center, you don’t have to worry about bringing the checkbook you received when you opened your Line of Credit.

Instead, you can transfer money into your checking account ahead of time and use your First County Bank debit card and have the money taken directly out of your checking account.

Click here to learn more about how you can access your Home Equity Line of Credit through Online Banking. Or, stop by any of our locations to speak with one of our Digital Ambassadors.

Not using Online Banking yet? Now is a great time to get started. Click here to learn more and sign up online.

Looking for a great way to pay for home improvements, repairs, and other major purchases? Click here to learn about our Home Equity Lines of Credit options.

Every business owner needs a trusted partner and a cool pair of socks.

At First County Bank, we’ve seen the time and effort it takes local entrepreneurs to get, and keep, their businesses off the ground.

During Small Business Month, we are recognizing that “hustle” by wearing, and sharing, custom socks with local business owners. We will also be sharing tips for business owners and introducing members of our business team.

Show the world what it’s like to be in your shoes!

We will also be sharing pictures from local businesses wearing their custom socks! Show us your socks on Instagram (using #FirstCountyBank and tagging @FirstCountyBank) or send an email to socks@firstcountybank.com, and you and your business may be featured on our social media channels.

Didn’t get a pair of socks? Send an email with your name, business mailing address and a little something about your business, to socks@firstcountybank.com, and we will send you a pair. (No purchase necessary. While supplies last. Businesses in Fairfield County, CT only please).

Did You Know - What is Positive Pay and why do you need it?

Positive Pay is a way to make your life as a business owner easier. Don’t believe us? Grab a coffee and we’ll explain.

When you open up shop every day you have emails to answer, employees to guide, problems to solve — not to mention working on your actual product or service. On top of all of that, you have customers and clients to assist. Our heads are spinning just thinking about it.

Enter Positive Pay. Managing finances might not be your jam (we get it, not everyone enjoys money management like we do), but Positive Pay lets you monitor your deposits to help protect you from fraud. When we process the checks you issue we match the account number, check number and dollar amount of each check presented for payment. If all three components of the check don’t match, it won’t clear, and you will receive a notice so you can review the check and decide whether or not you want it paid.

At First County Bank, Positive Pay is available for Checks and ACH deposits and will include daily account reconciliations. To sign up, talk to one of our Digital Ambassadors or our Cash Management team. We’ll give you a tool to monitor for fraud so you can get back to your to-do list.

First County Bank Spotlight –​ Sara Tucker

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve been happily married to my husband, Bruce, for 30 years! We met in college. We have two sons, who are both in their 20s. They are the joy of my life – one works for Fender Guitars in L.A. as a Finance Manager and the other is teaching history in the Philippines at an American international school. As a family, we love to travel and seek adventure – we’ve gone to many National Parks, European countries and Israel as well as cruises. I enjoy individual and adventure sports such as hiking, canyoneering, cycling, skiing, scuba diving/snorkeling, running and rollerblading (throwback from the ‘90s!).

My personal passion, in terms of helping make an impact in the world, is the environment. In my local community, I’m involved in several environmental groups that focus on education and keeping our environment clean. In Stamford, I’ve volunteered for Soundwaters, and I also became involved in the World Affairs Forum as a board member. Other organizations that I support include The Bartlett Arboretum, Stamford Museum & Nature Center and Stepping Stones Children’s Museum. I think it’s so important to teach the next generations about nature and the environment in a hands-on way, which all of these organizations do!

Do you have any secret talents?

My “secret talents” are that I’m a great skier (double diamond runs out West are my favorite!) and I’m very competitive in Scrabble! I’ve been told that I’m a good cook - and I love to entertain guests by planning dinner parties, theme parties and cooking with others in the kitchen. Gardening is one way I relieve stress. I have an herb garden in the summer and I do lots of container gardening with flowers. I’ve also run several 5Ks and can do them in just under 30 minutes.

What is your favorite part of your role with First County Bank?

Being able to interact with every department and often tackling complex issues as a team.  Every day brings new challenges and I enjoy having many different talented individuals to work with. I also enjoy being in a role which encourages collaboration, decisiveness and creativity. I was encouraged early on to create a small business loan product - and that happened with incredible teamwork from many. I was also encouraged to start a college internship program, which also came to fruition through teamwork! It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we tap into each other’s strengths.

Do you have a favorite First County Bank moment?

There have been several “favorite FCB moments” - but I’ll try to narrow it down. My favorite moments always have to do with when I realize that I’ve had an impact on someone else’s career, confidence, skill level and leadership capability. I have received “thank you” notes from our college interns the last three summers and all of them have shared positive feedback about working in the Business Banking Division. That’s because everyone pitches in to make it a great experience for them. It’s very satisfying (and FUN!) to watch the interns give their final presentation to Rey, Bob and a board room filled with our team. Those coaching moments leading up to the presentation are precious, often funny and make me smile! I also enjoy mentoring several women at FCB who are strong, smart and vibrant - we can all learn a lot from each other.

Anything else you’d like to say about you or your experience at the Bank?

I have been given opportunities to learn and grow and “spread my wings” at FCB - thanks to the leaders here. I also want to thank my entire division for always working hard - yet keeping a sense of humor and making each other laugh!

Financial Tip - Find your Side Hustle

You may have heard the term side hustle (and no, it’s not the group dance you never really learned how to do). A side hustle is something one does to bring in extra cash in addition to the income from their day job.

It’s similar to picking up a second job, but the key difference is, a side hustle is meant to give you the freedom to have control over your schedule and how much you earn (versus being tethered to the schedule and pay of an outside organization).

Before you cringe at the thought of adding more to your already full plate, hear us out. Ideally, a side hustle is a passion project that turns a profit. Typically these endeavors don’t yield enough cash for one to quit their regular job, but they soften the financial blow when it comes to life’s expenses while allowing you to do something you enjoy.

Increasing ones financial freedom is appealing to many people. The cash from a side hustle can help with getting out of debt, building an emergency fund, or purely to pay for fun expenses such as a vacation or regular pedicure.

When considering what type of side hustle could work for you, a great place to start is the Side Hustle School podcast with Chris Guillebeau. In the podcast, Chris explains more about what side hustles are all about, shares examples of success stories and gives tips for starting your own.

Here are just a few ideas to get you started

  • Freelance writing
  • Photography
  • Dog walking or pet sitting
  • Babysitting or nannying
  • Drive for Uber or Lyft
  • Sell crafts on Etsy
  • Start a food blog
  • Open an Airbnb
  • Become an adjunct professor
  • Proofreading
  • Tutoring
  • Catering
  • Computer repair
  • Cover letter and resume service
  • Event DJ
  • Interior decorating
  • Teach – music lessons, yoga, art classes, languages, etc.
  • Voiceover acting
  • Clean houses or cars

Did You Know – You can open an account through Online Banking?

Need to open a new checking, savings or certificate of deposit account, but don’t have time to make it to one of our offices during regular banking hours?

If you are already a First County Bank customer, whether you have one account or multiple, you can open additional accounts online, anytime, through Online Banking.

To get started, log in to Online Banking and click “Open an Account.” You will then be lead through the process of selecting your account and account options.

With Bank to Bank transfer, you can also set up your account so you can transfer funds to your new account from another bank, credit union or financial institution.

Not using Online Banking? No problem! You can register and get up and running in just a few minutes.

First County Bank Spotlight - Gianna Montanaro

Get to know Teller and Digital Ambassador Gianna Montanaro

Tell us a little about yourself.

Spending time with my family is my favorite thing to do. I have the classic giant Italian family that you see in the movies where everyone is yelling over each other, and passing various dishes of food around the table. I am the oldest of four siblings, and I have over 15 cousins, I’ve lost count by now! I love to travel and am a huge fan of Liverpool FC. I try to visit the UK for at least one game a year. I recently returned from a trip to Scotland, which is my favorite place.

I attend the University of Connecticut in Stamford full time and work at the Bank part time. I am studying Financial Management, and would like to pursue a career in Wealth Management and ultimately become the Chief Financial Officer of a company. I will continue gaining valuable experience at the Bank and learning as much as I can every day!

Do you have a secret talent?

I have been a gymnast and cheerleader since I was eight years old and can do a lot of flips and twists in the air. In high school, I was the captain of the varsity team and also cheered competitively in college. I coached youth gymnastics for a few years and plan to get back into it when I find the time.

What is your favorite part of your role with First County Bank?

I love going the extra mile to help customers. I enjoy the challenge of being faced with a tricky situation. I have recently become the Digital Ambassador for our Fairfield branch. This means that it is my responsibility to educate my coworkers on the various digital banking features that we offer, as well as help our customers who have issues or questions about their Online Banking.

Do you have a favorite First County Bank moment?

Every day working at this branch is amazing because of my wonderful team. I would have to say that the moment that I found out I was going to be a part of this family was my favorite. My coworkers give me support and guidance, for which I am so grateful. Working at First County Bank has put me on a path that coincides with my academic career, so I am excited to see what the future brings!

Anything else you’d like to say about you or your experience at the Bank?

Working at First County Bank has given me a better sense of responsibility, teamwork, and accountability. I am thankful for the experience and valuable skills that I will carry with me for the rest of my career.

Financial Tip - Reduce Credit Card Debt

Many Americans share the goal of paying down credit card debt. In the United States, the average household with credit card debt has an estimated $6,929 in balances carried from one month to the next (nerdwallet.com).

Credit card debt can be intimidating to tackle but it’s doable with a little help. Here are some tips to chip away at it.

Negotiate a lower interest rate

A lower interest rate can make a big difference when managing credit card debt. Before you make a plan to tackle your debt, call your credit card company and ask if they can give you a lower rate (it helps to mention how long you’ve been a customer, your record of paying on time, and your good credit score).

Develop a strategy that works for you

Idea 1: Tackle the debt with the highest interest rate.

This strategy can save you money because a high interest rate means you’re paying the highest amount of interest based off the principal balance. Accruing interest is what can make debt snowball out of control, so minimizing the principal quickly can pay off in the long run. Pay the minimum balance on all cards, but focus on putting extra cash into the account with the highest interest rate until the debt is gone for good.

Idea 2: Pay off the card with the lowest balance first.

Say you have a total of $5,000 in credit card debt between two cards. One card has $4,000 and the other has $1,000. If you focus on paying off the $1,000 balance first (while continuing to make the minimum payment on the $4,000 debt), once the debt is gone, it can be very motivational, and you can refocus your efforts to attack the larger debt.

Redesign your budget to tackle debt faster

The only way to conquer credit card debt quickly is to pay more than the minimum balance. Take a look at your budget to see where you can cut out expenses in order to free up some extra cash. Remember, the faster you pay off debt, the less you pay in interest, saving you money in the long run.

Cut the cards

Once you’ve freed yourself from your lingering credit card debt, now is the time to decide if you want to keep your cards. You don’t have to get rid of all of them, but take note of the features of each one. Does one have a higher interest rate than another? Does one have an annual fee? Cutting back on credit card usage can prevent you from racking up debt again. Try a First County Bank debit card, which works like a credit card but instead of getting a bill, your purchases are paid directly from your checking account.

Did you know - you can get the best of both worlds?

It will probably not come as a surprise to you that you can apply for a mortgage with First County Bank through our website (FirstCountyBank.com, of course!). And it’s probably not a shock to learn that you can also find current rates, interactive calculators and other resources that you may find useful whether you are buying your first home, or planning to downsize.

But did you know that, whether you apply online or in a branch, you will receive the same level of personal attention from a member of the First County Bank team? That’s because each and every mortgage is handled by a member of our team, right here in Connecticut. Which means you will have someone to turn to if you have any questions, concerns, and yes, even complaints, during the process, from start to finish.

To get started, visit our Online Mortgage Center, stop by any location, or call a member of our team.

First County Bank Spotlight – Meet John Cerulli

Meet Teller and Digital Ambassador, John Cerulli – he has been with the Bank for four years and works at one of our Norwalk branches.

Tell us a little about your life outside of the Bank

I enjoy collecting SEGA and baseball memorabilia. I also play on the First County Bank Softball team. My interests are in technology and mainly working with computers. The main involvement that I have with my community is in my spare time, I volunteer for the Springdale Fire Company.

Do you have a secret talent?

Some talents that I think I have are playing baseball, singing off tune, and comedy.

What is your favorite part of your role with First County Bank?

My favorite part of my role as a Teller is being able to have personal and fun conversations with my customers.

Do you have a favorite First County Bank moment?
Some of my favorite moments at the Bank are being able to help the customers and work with a diverse staff.

Did you know – You can use your First County Bank debit card, without having your debit card?

Have you ever arrived at the cash register, basket full of groceries or other purchases, only to discover you left your wallet in the car, or worse yet, back at home?

With your First County Bank debit card, you may be able to avoid sheepishly abandoning your cart and heading home empty handed. That’s because many major (and a growing number of small businesses) now accept Apple Pay® and Samsung Pay – meaning, if you connect your First County Bank debit card to your smart device or watch, you will be able to pay for your purchases without pulling out your wallet.

Setting up Apple Pay and Samsung Pay only takes a few minutes – follow one of the links below for instructions:

Having difficulties? We are here to help. Stop by one of our offices to speak with a Digital Ambassador, or contact our CustomerFirst Contact Center during regular business hours at 203-462-4400.

First County Bank Spotlight - Meet Laura Grajeda

Meet Digital Ambassador and teller Laura Grajeda, who has been with First County Bank for two years.

Tell us a little about yourself
I’m 21 years old and have 5 siblings, 2 boys and 3 girls, ranging from ages of 6-17. I love photography – scenic views are my favorite pictures. I go to school at Norwalk Community College, studying Business Management with an option in Finance. I am very involved in my church and try to do as much as I can with the youth of my church. I love anything soccer, I play and watch; my favorite team to watch is F.C. Barcelona.

What is your secret talent you’d like to share so we know more about you?
I can play the bass very well. I also play a little guitar and a little piano.

What is your favorite part of your role with First County Bank?
My favorite part of my role with First County Bank is the digital part. I am sort of a geek with that stuff, and ever since high school I would mess with my phone putting third-party apps on it. Being able to work a little bit more with technology and work to improve our e-banking experience is really exciting.

Do you have a favorite First County Bank moment?
I think my favorite moment at the bank was when I got my full time position here in North Stamford. Ever since then I’ve been able to learn more and achieve more.