If a person was to tell you that there were financial institutions out there that provided great customer service, higher rates of returns, lower fees and lower interest charges on loans would that be something that might perk your interest?
These are all characteristics of a credit union. So why doesn’t everyone bank at a credit union? Because a lot of people don’t know what one is.
A credit union is a member-owned financial co-operative. These institutions are created and operated by their members and profits are shared among the consumers who actually use the credit union. With a credit union you are a member, or a stakeholder. With a bank you are simply a customer. Banks are for-profit institutions and their goal is to make money for the stockholders of the company, not you.
Let’s look at the biggest credit union myths.
1. Credit Unions strictly limit membership.
Unlike banks, credit unions serve a specific group or community, which means there are rules about who can join. In some cases, credit union exist to serve a particular profession, college alumni or even a religious institution, but finding an eligible credit union isn’t difficult.
Most of the time you just have to live in a certain coverage area, and you can also join a credit union through a family member who belongs. Once you’re a member, you’re always a member.
2. Credit Unions have fewer locations.
A lot of credit unions partner to offer a shared banking network with thousands of locations and ATMs across the country. That’s part of the cooperative nature of a credit union. Many credit unions will allow members of other credit unions to do their banking at their locations. Ascentra Credit Union is part of the CO-OP Shared Branch Network that boasts over 5,600 branches nationwide, giving members access to their money and accounts when traveling. These branches are easy to find with the CO-OP Shared Branching Network app, on their website or by simply looking for their logo outside of a branch.
3. Lower fees at credit unions are rising.
Many credit unions have some flexibility in how much they charge for accounts, loans and other services, and they aim to keep costs low for their members. In some situations, credit unions may eliminate some products or services to cut costs rather than add fees.
That flexibility adds up to some big savings. The 2015 CUNA Membership Benefits Report estimates that credit union members across the country saved nearly $8.5 billion during the 12 months ending in September 2015 by doing business at a credit union instead of a bank.
4. Credit Unions do not offer reward programs.
Whether they’re offering airline miles, discounted hotels, cash-back rewards or other perks, credit unions make great use of loyalty programs. With banks, some consumers can become so focused on rewards programs that they miss the fact that the gains from those programs are less than the fees they’re paying to their bank. That’s not a problem with credit unions. Ascentra’s uChoose Rewards even lets you link points from your debit and credit purchases as well as a feature that allows you to pool your points with others in your household to earn points faster.
5. Credit unions can’t compete with the “big guys.”
The sole purpose for a credit union’s existence is to have your best interests at heart. Banks spend a lot of money on slick advertising campaigns in just about every medium. But when you look at the long list of great services a credit union provides, you will be glad they worry more about you than on advertising. What great services and deals do you get with a credit union?
a. Lower fees on banking products. Shop around for a loan or a checking account and you’ll find that credit unions usually offer lower fees on basic transactions. Most credit unions still offer truly free checking without strings attached.
b. Lower interest rates. Credit unions typically offer lower interest rates on mortgages and even credit cards.
c. Safety and Security. Just like the FDIC, deposits at a credit union are government-insured up to $250,000 through the National Credit Union Administration.
d. Outstanding Customer Service. Members will agree that the service that they receive at their local credit union is second to none. In the American Customer Satisfaction Index 2015 survey from CFI Group, credit unions beat banks, with customers rating their overall satisfaction at a score of 87 out of 100, 8 points greater than the banking average. That is a statistic that speaks volumes.