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The Benefits of Joining a Credit Union

Contributed by: Heath Combs

If you’re looking for a new place to take care of banking, be aware that not all financial institutions are created equal. It can really pay to think “outside the bank” and consider credit union membership. Here’s why.

A community focus

Unlike banks, which operate for profit, credit unions such as Truliant Federal Credit Union are member-owned, democratically governed cooperatives. Because of that, their members are more than simply valued customers; they’re voting shareholders. 

Regardless of wealth, each member’s vote carries equal weight. Credit unions take the time to get to know members personally, and they’re often active in the community via cultural and charitable endeavors such as scholarships, concerts, grants, donations and volunteerism.

Easier financing approval

Credit unions also have the specified mission of providing their members access to credit, especially those of modest means, and members are seen as more than just a set of numbers when seeking financing.

People who know the applicants as individuals usually make credit union financing decisions, unlike in bank financing applications, which are typically sent off to corporate headquarters elsewhere.

Because of their personal approach, credit unions are often more willing than banks to be flexible in their approval standards when a member has a less-than-stellar credit history.

More favorable rates and lower fees

Their not-for-profit status puts credit unions in the perfect position to ofr their members the best possible financing rates and returns on savings and investments. As a result, national average returns for credit unions are significantly better than those of traditional banks. Credit union fees are lower on average than banks as well, putting even more cash in members’ pockets.

Superior customer service

Credit unions’ community-oriented focus brings members knowledgeable customer service. Credit union representatives commonly go the extra mile, really getting to know members and providing valuable financial education and resources. The American Consumer Science Index found that while consumer approval for banks is declining, credit unions have held positive approval ratings over the years, with some recent improvement.

A piece of the pie

As shareholders, members also profit when their credit union does well. Extra income credit unions generate is returned to their members as dividends. Credit unions also routinely offer perks to their members such as discounted auto-buying services, free financial tune-ups and free credit reviews.

Top-notch products and services

Joining a credit union doesn’t mean settling for less; credit unions offer products and services that compete well with those of the big banks. Expect to find a wide variety of savings and investment account choices, free checking, excellent financing options and popular features such as mobile and online banking.

Who can join? 

Almost anyone can join a credit union. To qualify for membership in most credit unions you simply have to live, work, go to school or worship in the area served.

Many members find that once they’ve joined, they never want to go back to just being another number at a big bank.

Roberta Pescow, NerdWallet

© Copyright 2015 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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