Credit Unions: Are They a Fit for You?

Louisiana credit unions saw an 8 percent increase in loans in 2014.

For millennials, from buying that first car or home to investing in a college education, choosing the right financial institution is an important step. Several options are available, regardless of where consumers are in their financial lives.

Today, 1.2 million Louisianans choose credit unions — not-for-profit cooperatives with numerous benefits and personal services. Millennials entering their prime in the workforce may be drawn to the personal ownership philosophy. Since credit unions are owned by their members, profits are returned to members through lower loan rates and higher savings rates.   
Following are a few tips to help you decide if a credit union is right for you and if so, how to go about making the switch.

• Find a credit union you are eligible to join.
Credit unions serve people according to where they work, where they live or worship, or whether they belong to other associations. More than 3 million people across the United States joined a credit union last year. Visit and to find out what you need to know about your eligibility.

• Check if the credit union has what you are looking for.
Are you looking for a mortgage? Is a savings account most important to you? Credit unions offer services and products identical to other financial institutions, such as credit cards, mortgages, IRAs and small business loans. Louisiana credit unions saw an 8 percent increase in loans in 2014.

• Ask about free checking and debit.
According to the Credit Union National Association, 72 percent of credit unions offer free checking accounts ,compared to 38 percent of banks, and more than 70 percent have debit card programs, typically with no fees.

• Consider the convenience factor.
Thousands of credit unions share their branch facilities, allowing members of one credit union to use the shared branch networks of other credit unions. Today, many credit unions are part of nationwide ATM networks, which can save you those pesky ATM fees.

• What about electronic services?
Credit unions pioneered the concept of direct payroll deposit, and many offer a range of electronic banking services free of charge to members.

• Ask about deposit insurance.
Nearly all of the 7,500 credit unions in the U.S. are federally insured, meaning their deposits are insured up to $250,000 by a federal deposit insurance fund administered by the National Credit Union Administration.

• Finally, if you’re interested, ask for a “switch kit”:
Most credit unions provide switch kits to those interested in joining. A compilation of forms, rules and suggestions, switch kits have everything you may need to make your switch to a credit union as seamless as possible.

Credit unions continue to be a consumer-friendly choice for people of all ages. As you think about where to entrust your hard-earned money, small business or family car, take the time to find the financial institution that will best meet your individual financial needs.

In addition to her role as President/CEO of Louisiana Credit Union League, Anne Cochran leads CU Cooperative Branching, one of the most successful credit union cooperatives in the state.

Next month, she will become the first female Chairman of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU).



Categories: Banking, The Magazine