Credit Union Vs. Bank Perks: Whose is Better? | MyBankTracker (2024)

Credit Union Vs. Bank Perks: Whose is Better? | MyBankTracker (1)

It’s never been true that all financial institutions are the same.

But before you commit to a particular bank for direct deposit of your paycheck and your daily financial needs, check around to see if you might be better off at a credit union.

Credit unions are non-profit cooperatives that serve groups of members that have something in common such as an employer, membership in an association or residents of a particular community.

Just like Online Banks, they are often able to offer higher interest rates on savings accounts, money markets and CDs, and lower rates on credit cards and loans.

There will also be very little or no fees compared to a traditional bank.

In most cases it is easy to qualify to become a member if you live in a particular region or work, go to school or even worship there.

To find a credit union you might qualify for visit mycreditunion.gov or asmarterchoice.org. Traditional banks are not very happy that it is so easy to join a credit union.

Memberships in credit unions continue to increase.

"Broader eligibility requirements and greater awareness are reasons for the growth in credit unions," saidCUNA Chief Executive Bill Hampel. "For instance, many have made it easier for more people to join over the past several decades by expanding eligibility based on where customers live, instead of restricting membership to a particular employer.”

How Credit Unions are Different

Like traditional banks, credit unions make their money bygiving out loans.

But they do not have all the expenses associated with large banks in that they are exempt from federal taxes and do not have to pay dividends to shareholders as a public company.

However, the interest you earn on a credit union savings account is called a dividend.

With a credit union, you aren’t going to be charged every time you use their ATM or your balance goes below a certain amount.

Most banks charge a monthly service fee.

For example, Bank of America charges $12 if you don't have a direct deposit of $250 or more each month.

With no monthly service charge at credit unions, this alone can save you over a hundred dollars each year.

Also, most credit unions offer immediate access to your deposits so you don’t have to wait a day or two to start spending your own money.

Checking accounts can be automatically linked to a savings account without a fee, so if your checking account goes negative the funds are taken from your savings.

And if you have to use an ATM outside their network, many will reimburse you for the fees up to $5 per month. Also, with direct deposit of your paycheck you can often have access to your money up to two days early.

Since credit unions are non-profits, you might find lower interest rates for new and used car loans in particular.

In general, borrowing standards might be a little more flexible if you are a member in good standing.

And just like most major banks, all credit union accounts are federally insured up to $250,000 and backed by the U.S. government.

Banking from Anywhere

The Digital Credit Union, known as DCU,is just one exampleof the rapid growthofcredit unions.

The organizationwas founded in 1979 in Marlborough, Massachusetts, to serveemployees of Digital Equipment Corporation.

Today it provides banking services for more than 900 companies and organizations with more than 500,000 members in all 50 states.

They report that half of their members have never entered a brick and mortar DCU location, as they have access to thousands of CO-OP shared branches with other credit unions nationwide.

Peter Bell became a DCU member when he lived in the Boston area, and later moved to Rochester, New York.

He decided to keep his checking and savings accounts there since he couldn’t find a bank that came even close to the benefits the DCU offered.

“With direct deposit of my paycheck and free access to local ATMs for both withdrawals and deposits, there was really no reason to make a change," Bell said. "I have overdraft protection that is directly tied to a home equity line of credit, so instead of getting charged 18% interest I pay about 3-4% whenever I have to use it. Any type of loan can be taken out from the comfort of your own home, and once when I refinanced my mortgage DCU sent a notary right to my house.”

Ron Brown is a member of BFG Credit Union in Ohio, which has been around since 1935.

Worried that he might be laid off from his job, he appreciated the ability to make extra payments on a car loan that were taken off the front of the loan.

“At a regular bank a loan has to be paid every month and any extra money is taken off the back of the loan," Brownsaid, "or you can put it in a 1% saving account while you are paying 6% on your loan.

BFG took the payments off the front so the months I was working I made double payments.

If I got laid off I would not have to make another payment for months.”

Overdraft Games Credit Unions Don’t Play

Traditional banks stack the deck so you end up incurring hefty overdraft fees.

For example, a Pew Charitable Trusts survey found that 12 of the largest banks either reordered your transactions so that the higher amounts are processed first, or reserved the right to.

You might think your $20 check to a friend would be processed first if you wrote the check on a Wednesday, ahead of your $2,000 mortgage check written on the following Friday.

But the bank could legally decide to process the $2,000 check first.

If you are running close to the edge and are trying to track all your payments carefully, this could result in an unexpected overdraft.

"Consumers generally have three choices when they have insufficient funds to covera debit card purchase or ATM withdrawal," the survey reported.

"can incur a) an overdraft penaltyfee (median cost $35) in which the bank makes a short-term advance to cover thetransaction; b) an overdraft transfer fee (median cost $10) when the bank transfersfunds from a linked account like a savings account, line of credit, or credit card; or,c) if the consumer did not opt in to an overdraft penalty plan and did not apply foran overdraft transfer plan, the transaction will be denied with no fees charged.

"Lower-income and younger consumers are hit the hardest by these penalty fees" the studydetermined.

Other banks take it upon themselves to credit your deposits after they process checks and other transactions such has online payments.

Banks are also allowed to hold check deposits up to nine business days, but usually have to make $200 of the check available by the next day— unless you made the deposit at an ATM.

Linda Ruttschaw reports that she has direct deposit with her bank but now is charged a fee unless she sends them all her receipts for debit and checking transactions. “And if I want to move money around between accounts there is a fee. ," she said.

"My paycheck hits the bank on a given day but if they want to take a fee out the day before there is an overdraft charge plus the fee.”

Where to stash your hard-earned cash is a decision not to be taken lightly.

Make sure you examine all your options and read the fine print before choosing any bank or credit union.

I'm an enthusiast with extensive knowledge in the field of personal finance, particularly in the realm of banking, credit unions, and financial institutions. My expertise is grounded in both theoretical understanding and practical experience, having navigated various financial landscapes and staying updated with industry trends.

In the provided article, the focus is on the differences between traditional banks and credit unions, emphasizing the advantages of credit unions. Let's break down the key concepts and provide additional insights:

  1. Credit Unions:

    • Defined as non-profit cooperatives serving specific groups of members with commonalities such as employer, association membership, or community residence.
    • Similar to online banks, they offer higher interest rates on savings accounts, money markets, and CDs, along with lower rates on credit cards and loans.
    • Membership eligibility is often based on location, work, school, or other factors, making it more accessible than traditional banks.
  2. Benefits of Credit Unions:

    • Lower or no fees compared to traditional banks.
    • Flexible eligibility criteria, expanding based on where customers live rather than restricting membership to specific employers.
    • Immediate access to deposits, potentially allowing for spending on the same day.
    • Reimbursem*nt for ATM fees incurred outside the credit union's network.
    • Access to funds with direct deposit of paychecks, sometimes up to two days earlier.
    • Non-profit status leading to potentially lower interest rates on loans, especially for new and used car loans.
  3. Financial Differences:

    • Credit unions make money by giving out loans, similar to traditional banks.
    • Credit unions, being non-profits, are exempt from federal taxes and don't pay dividends to shareholders.
    • Interest earned on credit union savings accounts is referred to as a dividend.
  4. Digital Credit Union (DCU) Case Study:

    • Example of a credit union, DCU, founded in 1979, serving over 900 companies and organizations with more than 500,000 members across all 50 states.
    • Highlights the growth of credit unions and the shift towards digital banking services.
    • Emphasizes the accessibility of credit unions with shared branches, reducing the need for physical locations.
  5. Member Testimonials:

    • Personal experiences from DCU members Peter Bell and Ron Brown, showcasing the benefits of credit unions in terms of convenience, overdraft protection, and flexibility in payments.
  6. Overdraft Practices:

    • Traditional banks often engage in overdraft practices that can lead to hefty fees for consumers.
    • Credit unions are portrayed as not playing these overdraft games, potentially providing a more consumer-friendly approach.
  7. Considerations for Choosing a Financial Institution:

    • Encourages readers to carefully examine all options and read the fine print before choosing a bank or credit union.

In summary, the article underscores the distinct advantages of credit unions over traditional banks, emphasizing their non-profit status, lower fees, and increased flexibility in financial services. The inclusion of real-life testimonials and examples further strengthens the case for considering credit unions as a viable alternative in the realm of personal finance.

Credit Union Vs. Bank Perks: Whose is Better? | MyBankTracker (2024)
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