Banking 
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comments

3 Reasons I Love My Credit Union

In 2011, the Occupy Movement focused attention on the nation’s credit unions when they launched a national campaign that resulted in 650,000 people dropping their banks and switching to a credit union. Although that number was later revised lower, 2011 was the year that many people tried their local credit union for the first time.

Still, many of us put our money in big banks because that’s what our parents told us to do. My parents were loyal credit union customers but for a short time I was an unhappy customer at a large bank before switching back to a credit union. Here’s what I learned.

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 NEWS 
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Founders Federal Credit Union Gives $10 Million

Founder Federal Credit Union, a credit union in Lancaster, South Carolina; will be giving $10 million back to its members in the form of a bonus dividend. About half will go to depositors based on their interest earned and the other half will go to borrowers based on their interest paid. There’s no doubt that its 200,000 members are thrilled.

This illustrates the fundamental difference between credit unions and banks. Both pay out dividends and both pay them to their “owners.” The difference is that the depositors and borrowers are the owners of the credit union and that’s why it’s going back to them. Commercial banks pay dividends also, but the customer isn’t the owner. Shareholders are. Founders Federal has returned $30 million dividends in the past eleven years. This is just one of the reasons why credit unions kick ass.

Another warm and fuzzy moment? Bonuses for employees. $1,300 for full timers and $650 for part-timers.


 Banking 
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comments

How to Avoid ATM Fees

ATMsWhen my sister was in college, she used the ATM a lot. Whenever she needed some money, she’s go to the machine and pull out $20. Sometimes she’d check her balance. Then one day she realized, or my dad realized, that she was using an out of network ATM which charged around $5-7 (combined) each time she withdrew money. For every $20 she withdrew, she was paying a $7 fee. Every time she checked her balance, that’s another fee. Over the course of a semester, she racked up around $100 in unnecessary fees. In her case, she wasn’t aware it was happening but it’s a hard pill to swallow nonetheless.

Fortunately, with a few quick tips, being dinged by ATM fees is completely avoidable.

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 Banking 
12
comments

How to Find a Credit Union

Credit Unions kick ass.

If you found yourself complaining about the “Too Big To Fail Banks” and still have your money at one of the TBTF banks, then you, my friend, have lost the right to complain. If you want to remedy that, or if you simply want better rates, then a credit union is a fantastic almost-perfect substitute for a commercial bank.

The key difference between a credit union and a commercial bank is that the depositors and borrowers of a credit union are its shareholders. With a commercial bank, the shareholders are the owners of its public stock or investors in the corporation. When the credit union counts you as a shareholder, it gives you better rates on your deposits (high yield savings accounts may still offer higher rates) and better rates on your loans. Finally, credit unions are NCUA insured up to $250,000, just like commercial banks and the FDIC, so your money is safe.

The main trade off is that credit unions are smaller and so they lack the enormous geographic footprint of much larger banks.

So how do you find a good credit union?

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 Banking 
17
comments

Where to Find Free Checking Now

I just watched a short Bankrate video on the decline of free checking and how many banks are pulling their “free” no interest checking accounts off their menu of options.

It’s becoming pretty clear that “free checking” was, at least in the banking industry, code for “free checking paid for by enormous fees.” Now that the rules for fees like overdraft/NSF fees have been overhauled, banks can no longer live off free checking the way they used to. I’ve long argued that free checking wasn’t actually free because you are paying for it with your lack of interest income. Your opportunity cost is the interest you would’ve earned in a high yield savings account.

So if you want a free checking account, where you should you look? One answer – credit unions.
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 Your Take 
62
comments

Your Take: Name Your Favorite Bank or Credit Union

ATMThe recent economy woes have not been kind to banks. It seems like every weekend a bank is failing (over 60 so far this year) and mainstream media is piling on. Four of the thirty two companies in Consumerist Worst Company in America 2010 bracket are financial services companies. Chase, Citi, Capital One, and Bank of America, an eventual Final Four participant (though none of them stood a chance against Ticketmaster for sheer “worstness”). Slamming a bank is just too easy… but it’s also a little unfair.

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 Your Take 
46
comments

Your Take: What Do You Look For in a Bank or Credit Union?

Ceramic Piggy BankThis week Liz Weston wrote about how to shop for a new bank and it made me think about how we chose the banks we work with now. For us, the criteria for judging a checking account differed from the criteria for judging a savings account. We use the two different types of accounts for different purposes, so the criteria for picking the “best” for us will vary between the two.

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 Banking 
46
comments

10 Reasons Why Credit Unions Kick Ass

Fire Police City County Federal Credit UnionCredit unions exist to help its members. Commercial banks exist to enrich their shareholders.

You read that right. Credit unions are unions that exist to help its members. That’s why they often have better interest rates on both loans and deposits. Commercial banks are businesses. Their sole purpose is to figure out how to make more money from its customers (you!). Interest rates are often very low (or nonexistent), loan rates are often competitive, and they always try to sell you new products because you are a customer.

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