CONSTANCE GUSTKE, BANKRATE.COM
Did you know banks rate 3rd in the number of consumer complaints in relationship to all other types of businesses out there. Third right now and the way they are creating all types of fees I am sure they will succeed at being number ONE. Since we all need to have some type of banking system in our lives it's really time to look at a credit union if you haven't done so already. Credit unions come in all stripes and colors. Currently, there are 7,200 credit unions in the U.S., according to the Credit Union National Association. And not all of them are just community-related.
Your church, university or even your military branch may offer its own credit union with sweet deals and special perks, such as a no-minimum checking account that also pays interest. And that's on top of the better loan rates and fewer bank fees offered by credit unions nationwide, says Bill Cheney, CEO of CUNA. On average, a family saved about $130 last year by using credit unions rather than banks, he says.
"There's a credit union for everyone," Cheney says. "You just have to find it." To see if your university, church or other affiliate has a credit union, visit aSmarterChoice.org. Before plunking down your money, make sure the credit union's deposits are insured by the National Credit Union Administration.
As you research credit unions as a banking alternative, check out these five types of credit unions worth considering.
Tap your alma mater
Are you a university alumnus? Then chances are good that your university offers a credit union open to its alumni, faculty, students and even nearby residents. At the University of Southern California Credit Union in Los Angeles, students,
alumni and staff can use the credit union's three on-campus branches. "Students come here to establish credit," says Gary Perez, CEO of USC Credit Union. "We offer free unlimited checking and premium points on deposits."
Other USC student services include: financial workshops, student loans and account packages. Los Angeles residents are also welcome. And the USC credit union serves University of Maine students, faculty, employees and some local residents. It even offers a "Tunes+" checking account, with which you can earn credits for free iTunes downloads.
Credit unions in the community
Community development financial institutions, or CDFIs, are aimed at low- to moderate-income people. Many
of these credit unions are interested in economic justice, says Pamela Owens, vice president of programs for the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions. Their designation allows them to apply for special government
grants to open multiple branches in hard-hit communities, she says. They can offer affordable mortgages or special, matching savings accounts. For example, at Alternatives Federal Credit Union in Ithaca, N.Y., a member can get
free tax preparation and a seven-week financial education course. The credit union has offered savings accounts that members can open with a $5 minimum deposit. The individual development accounts also match your savings deposits
when you're working toward a long-term goal, such as owning a home or opening a business.
The Lower East Side People's Federal Credit Union in New York also offers free tax preparation, financial counseling and has offered a savings account that could be opened with just $30. "These credit unions are more apt to work with people, such as helping you with credit repair so you can raise your score," Owens says.
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