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Credit Unions - A Cheaper, Friendlier Alternative to Banks

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  • Credit Unions - A Cheaper, Friendlier Alternative to Banks

    In Raleigh, North Carolina, new homeowners John and Jennifer Hall made a smart decision: instead of choosing a risky mortgage scheme from a bank - a decision that has been catastrophic for so many of their contemporaries, the couple applied for a loan through the North Carolina State Employees' Credit Union (SECU).

    The couple did their homework, and concluded that it made better sense to work with a non-profit financial cooperative to purchase their first home. Aside from lower fees and closing costs, SECU did something the others didn't: a credit-union employee sat down with the couple to explain the pros and cons of the various mortgage options. Because credit union employees are non-commissioned, there was no pressure, enabling the couple to see the credit union as a trusted advisor.

    "There are so many young folks who don't realize the advantage of going with a co-op," says John, who believes that all North Carolinians benefit from non-profit financial cooperatives that help to keep other financial institutions in check by ensuring citizens remain eligible for competitive rates and fees. "Being a member can make a tremendous difference in your financial life!"

    You Belong

    Are you are frustrated with your bank? You may be tired of paying endless fees, high interest rates and receiving poor customer service. And in light of the current financial crisis, you may find yourself among those with good credit experiencing trouble getting a car or home loan, the result of tightened lending standards due to the banking industry's own.

    Fortunately, you have options.

    Credit unions offer are a fresh alternative to corporate banks while providing the same kinds of services. As a credit union member, you can open a checking or savings account, buy a certificate of deposit and get a loan. Some credit unions can even help invest for your retirement or take financial planning courses before you buy your first home.

    Credit unions are co-operative businesses, owned by members (depositors) who share something in common, such as where they work, live or go to church. Because credit unions tend to be smaller and cater to a select group of people, you can expect a more personal relationship between the staff and the members.

    Unlike commercial banks that generate profits for owners and outside shareholders, credit unions channel profits back to members in the form of lower fees, better interest rates and higher dividends. According to the American Banker/Gallup poll, credit unions consistently rank high among consumers for service and customer satisfaction every year since 1983.

    Keep Your Money Safe

    Credit unions have emerged as a safe haven for consumers. Because credit unions avoided the risky loans and exotic investments that brought down so many banks, they remain relatively untouched by the recent financial crisis, credit union members have peace of mind knowing their money is safe.

    Credit unions are financially solid because they stick to conservative banking practices, such as requiring down payments and income verification on mortgage loans. While many banks were chasing ever more exotic ways to make money, credit unions stuck to the basics.

    Many people are leery of putting their funds in the hands of a credit union because they believe the credit union isn't FDIC insured. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like banks and savings institutions, credit unions deposits are insured up to $250,000 by the federal government, providing the same level of protection for investor assets as any banking institution.

    Credit Unions Still Lending

    Commercial banks have recently curtailed lending, even people with good credit. The result is that many consumers are having trouble getting home and car loans due to tightened lending standards.

    This is not the case with credit unions, which continue making loans available to people with good credit histories. In fact, credit unions are now experiencing higher loan volumes as consumers turn to them in greater numbers since the recent banking sector meltdown.

    According to the CUNA, credit unions made 36 percent more small business loans in the first half of 2008 than the same period in 2007, a reflection in part of the ability of credit unions to lend while banks horde cash.

    Now, as conventional banks avoid lending even to credit worthy buyers, credit unions are poised to take a much larger share of the traditional lending business - including homes, cars and small business loans.

    Join a Credit Union Today!

    Though once associated with trade unions, hospitals, universities and other large employee groups, credit unions are increasingly open to the general public. There are also "select employee groups" that offer credit union members to a network of affiliated businesses.

    You'll find many reasons to join a credit union, including:

    - Unlike many commercial banks, credit unions are still lending

    - You have access to great products and services.

    - Be heard. Your voice counts - your co-op truly cares what you think.

    - You'll be part of a values-based organization that puts people ahead of profit.

    - Share in the financial success of the organization.

    - Contribute to a thriving local economy.

    - Invest in a business that is locally owned and democratically controlled.

    - Be part of a strong and proud cooperative tradition.

    - Help change the way business is conducted in America and around the world.

    As of 2005, there are 9,346 credit unions in the United States, which means that just about any consumer can find a credit union they are eligible to join.

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