Credit union membership is fast, easy, open to everyone, and helps shield the community from powerful commercial banks now hoarding our money after a decade of gambling with it. For most of us, it's in our public and self-interest to transfer savings and checking accounts from big national banks to local credit unions--first thing tomorrow.
the Move Your Money advocacy of recent months, I'm amazed at how many friends
don't know the benefits of banking with credit unions. Joining a credit union is easy and open
to almost everyone. Credit
union membership helps shield the community from powerful commercial banks now
hoarding our money after a decade of gambling with it. For most of us, it's in our public and
self-interest to transfer savings and checking accounts from big national banks
to local credit unions--first thing tomorrow.
big commercial banks, credit unions came through the 2008 meltdown relatively
unscathed and never required taxpayer bailouts. Credit unions didn't suffer from vast holdings of junk debt
because they didn't issue bad loans during the easy-money, predatory financial
climate of the Bush years. Born
during another great financial crisis, the first credit unions were formed in the 1930s as member-owned cooperatives. Today, in a similar time of public
rescue and clean up after private banks' failure and toxic profiteering, credit
unions fulfill the same mission:
to help people save and borrow locally at competitive rates from people
of all, moving our money to a credit union is no sacrifice. After the minutes
it takes to open an account, we help ourselves with an array of free credit
union conveniences and benefits:
banking, including free and interest-earning checking accounts, competitive
rates ("dividends") on personal loans, savings, IRAs, and certificates of
deposits federally insured up to $250,000, same as commercial banks.
array of free services to members, ATM's, drive-up windows, notary public and
function as a statewide and national branch bank, allowing withdrawals and
deposits to virtually any other credit union, without hassle or charges. If you belong to one, you can use the services
full complement of bank loan services, including personal loans and
mortgages. Some larger credit
unions also offer business loans and accounts.
education workshops on popular topics such as budgeting, wills, home buying,
retirement investment and small business issues.
on ATM charges when using your credit union debit card at any commercial
bank. Amazingly, this often
includes full refunds on international ATM fees from foreign banks.
*Being 18 and over,
with two forms of ID, and with a start-up savings deposit of $25, anyone can
become a credit union member (not a mere customer).
that inclusive spirit, credit unions represent community democracy in
action. They're one kind of institution
where money and self-interest truly intersect with fellow-feeling and the
common good. Unlike the big banks,
which exist only to enrich owners, shareholders and CEOs, credit unions are
non-profit, run by citizen boards--community volunteers, elected and answerable
to other members. Unlike the trustees
of big banks, citizen boards feel no pressure to issue sketchy loans to
unqualified borrowers or pad the bonuses of insanely rich executives. Nor do they withhold credit to fully
eligible customers during the very recessions they cause. Credit unions exist, unbelievably, only
to serve their members. Us.
Still don't believe
it? Check out a credit union staff
parking lot. Often the loan
officers and directors drive the same well-used Subarus and Chevys we do; they
live in our neighborhoods, have kids in our schools, gripe about the same price
hikes at the supermarket and gas pump. If we all transfer our collective wealth to our local
credit unions, we will not only be well served while paying and/or earning
equitable interest rates, we will help our neighbors. When we make a deposit at our credit union, we won't be
helping some big-bank CEO buy his or her sixth "second home" in Aspen. Our savings will finance Fred and
Ethel's new windows, Alice's new restaurant, Bart's first car, and Lisa's college tuition.
benefit of credit union membership grows from dealing with a service-oriented
staff in a healthy, not-for-profit environment. In years of dealings, both as a borrower and saver, I've
found the fellow members who work behind the desk or kiosk to be unfailingly
helpful, kindly, and honest. In a
recent conversation with a young service rep at my credit union, I learned that
she'd started her career at a huge, national commercial bank. Much happier at the credit union, she
first noticed the lack of pressure to persuade customers to move into loans or
savings accounts more beneficial to the bank than the client. She also detailed how the work
atmosphere seemed far less determined by a boss's mood, personality, or power
plays while being far more equitable and cooperative. The young rep and I wracked our brains for the downside of
credit unions versus commercial banks, and could only come up with most credit
unions' lack of capacity to make large-scale business loans. "This sound just too utopian, isn't
it?" she asked me.
But credit unions
really are a kind of financial utopia.
Best of all, as we reward ourselves, we will help bring positive
community change without any need to lobby Congress, email Obama, or shoot
darts at Wall Street and the Federal Reserve. In a climate of conservative incoherence, nilhism, and
stubbornness, this social betterment will be immediate, doing good as fast as
we can move our money to credit unions. Instead of merely cursing and sticking up rude fingers
when we pass our former big commercial bank, we can smile in self-satisfaction
at all the good we're doing for ourselves and our neighbors--with interest.
Lee Patton, a Denverite, writes fiction, drama, poetry and nonfiction.