There are many relationships I have in my day to day life I often take for granted. I have been going to the same barber for a few years now religiously every two weeks. The owner of the dry cleaners in my building at work looks forward to seeing me once every three weeks when I drop off the few items I need pressed for meetings. Even in my local Publix, I tend to see the same cashier every Saturday morning I buy groceries.
There is one relationship however that you have that you could be taking for granted, your financial institution. If you have been banking at the same place for years on end, you honestly could be missing out on some benefits and perks provided by another credit union or bank, simply by comparing what you have. Here are a few reasons why you should take this weekend to re-assess your banking relationship, and make the switch to a credit union.
When is the last time you walked into an actual bank? If you are like many of us, it is likely years. Gone are the days of having to do simple transactions face-to-face. We can open accounts, fund accounts, send wires, apply for loans and credit cards, sign loan documents, close accounts, transfer money, pay bills, deposit checks, and deposit cash without interacting with an employee in person. That convenience is wonderful, however it doesn’t mean your current account is the best one for your needs.
I opened my very first bank account when I was a senior in high school. I kept that account with a national bank for six and a half years. It was their “student checking” account, which at the time offered up no minimum balance requirement, a Visa Check card, and a box of checks (Yeah, might be showing my age, but I remember when you would actually order checks at an account opening). During the early years of adulthood, that account served it’s purpose, as I went to college out of state, and that gave my parents the opportunity to deposit funds when possible so I could safely retrieve them (that didn’t happen often).
When I entered the workforce full-time, I kept that same student checking account for a while, until one day a representative from the local credit union visited the break-room of the company I was working at. They were signing up new members during lunch, providing many of the same basic perks I was receiving from my student checking, however offering no minimum balance requirements for life on any of the accounts as long as your direct deposit was going into your account with them. I later found out from a co-worker that the credit union would release your direct deposit two days early, so while I was accustomed to getting paid Friday morning, my new credit union checking account reflected my deposit Wednesday afternoon.
The credit union relationship also offered the ability to become a “member”, which seemed and felt much different to me than just being another customer to a big, bad, national bank. I took the plunge and switched everything over. After my first direct deposit cleared, I closed my old student checking account, and never looked back. The relationship with my credit union grew exponentially over the years, as I have borrowed money for an auto loan, 2nd mortgage, line of credit, emergency loan (medical bill) and credit card. The interest rates on all products were far lower than those I received in the marketplace.
Now I am not telling you to not do business with national banks or other companies in general. Credit unions do have some drawbacks, including in some cases limited locations, especially if you travel. They also often lack behind in technology (ATM’s and Online Apps). That said, the customer service is usually much better consistently compared to what you receive at a bank.
When was the last time you sat down and asked yourself why you bank with you bank with? How did the relationship come about? Did you get referred by friends and family, or did a prior employer have a relationship with them, like in my case? No matter what, life changes can cause the perfect opportunity to do an audit of your personal finances, and your banking relationship is one we often overlook
If you are considering joining a credit union, and want to consider a few who are open to members anywhere in America, here are three options to take a look at.
Digital Credit Union
Digital Credit Union (DCU) is a not-for-profit cooperative owned and operated by and for their members. You can join one of a long list of organizations that they are connected with, and once you are in, your membership is for life. Note – the organization you join will likely have a small membership fee, ranging from $25+ and often that is due annually. We have found that once your membership is established with DCU, you can then cancel that relationship with the organization, since you are a member for life with DCU.
PenFred Credit Union
Established in 1935, PenFed is one of America’s largest and most stable credit unions, boasting nearly 1.9 million members worldwide and over $25 billion in assets. Their full product suite are popular among those look for competitive auto loan rates, mortgages, and credit cards, with their Power Cash Rewards Signature Visa being a GoodMoneyAdvice top choice for 2019.
Note: You will need to maintain a $5 balance in your savings account to remain in good standing.
Alliant Credit Union
Chicago based Alliant Credit Union is not the biggest credit union on this list (282,000 members), but they do tote some great reviews, along with the claim of having more surcharge-free ATM’s than Bank of America and Chase combined.
To join, you can make a simple $5 donation to Alliant’s charity of choice, Foster Care to Success, which will make you eligible for membership.
If you decide to join a credit union, remember your deposits are safe. Like the FDIC’s Deposit Insurance Fund, credit unions are covered by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). It is essentially federal insurance for your money. The credit unions shared here do not represent the dozens of local or regional options you may have as well, in which membership may be a bit more restricted to your community or employment affiliation.