Time To Be All Serious N’ Stuff

Important topic!  Of vast importance!  So put your big-person pants on and let’s do this thing.

 

Pros and Cons of Credit Unions (vs. Traditional Banks)

First of all, what IS a credit union?  According to the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU.org, yes it’s a thing), credit unions are, “member-owned, not-for-profit financial cooperatives that provide savings, credit and other financial services to their members. Credit union membership is based on a common bond, [such as belonging] to a specific community, organization, religion or place of employment. Credit unions pool their members’ savings deposits and shares to finance their own loan portfolios rather than rely on outside capital.”

On the flip side, traditional banks are for-profit businesses, owned by shareholders and not the individual members.

 

Pros:

What a credit union IS creates one of its benefits – a credit union is member owned.  For many Americans who are angry at the Big Banking System, there is personal satisfaction of taking money away from the businesses that helped cause our financial crisis, and placing it in a co-op where they have a say it what happens to their money.

Banks are interested in making money off their customers – thus you are charged fees and high rates for services.  Credit unions are customer-focused, and are interested in providing better services for less.  In fact, credit unions live or die based on the quality of service they provide their co-op members.

According to Wisebread.com, credit unions non-profit status is another benefit.  Non-profits are exempt from federal taxes.  That savings, along with the profits made by the credit union, are passed along to the owners/customers.  Therefore, credit unions can offer higher interest rates on savings accounts and CDs, and lower rates on loan products – like car loans and mortgages – and credit cards.

Credit unions are also able to be more flexible than a typical bank, say the folks at MoneyCrashers.com.  You aren’t just another number in a long line of credit and loan applications.  Big banks use standardized qualifiers to determine whether or not they’ll extend you credit.  But credit unions can waive those restrictions, or find ways to work around a low credit score or bank balance.

Final Score: Credit unions can offer lower loan interest rates, higher savings interest rates, better service, and more flexibility, plus the sense of “sticking it to The Man.”

 

Cons:

Credit unions are great… if you can actually join one.  First, you have to find one in your community that offers the services you need, and second, you have to determine if you are eligible for membership.

Once you do join a credit union, you are limited by their fewer locations and services available.  Plus, credit unions offer little in the way of convenient ATMS and online services.

To find a credit union in your area, try researching online at places like ASmarterChoice.org.  Or, utilize your social media network.  This whole segment came about because a friend of mine asked on Facebook for a recommendation of a good credit union in the south west metro.  She learned of three different options to check out.  So ask your Friends – you’d be surprised at who is using credit unions.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted January 22, 2013 at 12:46 PM | Permalink

    I’ve been with Us Federal Credit Union for about 5 years.
    Haven’t had any issues unlike the monthly fees or transfers required
    at my other bank. That starts with W and ends with a O.
    Note to self, close that account!
    Us Federal is easy to join and it does have all the online banking options
    as traditional banks.

  2. Alex
    Posted January 23, 2013 at 9:48 AM | Permalink

    There is over 28,000 surcharge free ATMs for credit union members. co-op.org- to find the locations. No other financial institute cam claim that high, you usually have to hope there is a location of your bank nearby.
    But with credit unions you just need a credit union, doesn’t have to be yours plus there is shared branching to further extend the reach of a credit union.
    Then there is Quik-n-Easy gas station that now have free ATMs.

  3. Theresa Hilinski
    Posted January 23, 2013 at 9:57 AM | Permalink

    Your CONS list can be accurate in some cases of very small credit unions, but further research would have provided info on ATM & shared branching networks that many credit unions collectively use.

    The 2 largest ATM networks, Allpoint (http://www.allpointnetwork.com/) & CO-OP (http://www.co-opnetwork.org/) have upwards of 2 or 3 times the amount of ATMs that some of the bigger banks have (Wells Fargo/BofA).

    I’ll admit some credit unions are still a little behind on the mobile/online technology side, but having an actual voice in the direction my credit union takes makes it easy to live on the West Coast, but have a primary financial institution that is in Pennsy.

  4. Matt Weidler
    Posted January 23, 2013 at 10:37 AM | Permalink

    Just a note: Credit union’s actually operate almost twice as many fee-free ATMs nation-wide than Bank of America. BofA has about 16,000, the CO-OP network has almost 30,000. Here’s an article about how BofA is shrinking their network:

    http://www.mybanktracker.com/news/2012/07/24/bank-of-america-atm-network-reduction/

    You can find the CO-OP ATM nearest to you by entering your zip code here:

    http://www.co-opnetwork.org/locator/search-results/?act=advanced_search&

    The appearance is deceiving because the 30,000 ATMs are all owned and operated by different CUs with different branding. Do a little research before you leave home, and you’ll have no trouble finding one near you. You can also look for the CO-OP label if you’re out and about. Almost all credit unions participate in the ATM network.

    If it’s just not possible to look it up before you go, then remember: “7-eleven is the place to go for the nearest fee-free ATM.”

    http://www.atmmarketplace.com/article/130340/Co-Op-7-Eleven-ATM-deal-gets-thumbs-up-from-credit-unions

  5. melvin
    Posted January 24, 2013 at 9:27 PM | Permalink

    It’s an interesting subject.

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