Games Played Once Too Often

Recently, Pete joined a credit union and closed his account at Bank of America. It started out as a sensible if exotic maneuver to outrun galloping bank fees but quickly became a floodlit escape. The bank assessed fee after fee until finally Pete got the account closed in the nick of time. Ever since, I’ve been preaching the gospel of credit unions. Feel free to sing along! Let’s start with an uplifting chorus. What is a credit union?

Credit unions are financial institutions formed by an organized group of people with a common bond. Members of credit unions pool their assets to provide loans and other financial services to each other.

Credit unions differ from other banks in several ways:

Credit Unions
Not-for-profit cooperatives
Owned by members
Operated by mostly volunteer boards

Other Financial Institutions
Owned by outside stockholders
Owned by outside stockholders
Controlled by paid boards

These factors allow credit unions to pay dividends to their members (not shareholders) and offer them lower loan rates, higher savings rates and fewer service fees.

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) is the federal agency that charters and supervises federal credit unions. They also insure savings in federal and most state-chartered credit unions across the country through the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), a federal fund backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government.

Sort of makes you want to get all common-bondy with someone, eh? Thing is you might already be. I didn’t know this, but here in New Jersey, there are literally hundreds of credit unions. The unnamed university has a credit union for faculty and staff, but not everyone knows there’s another for students and alumni, and if you’re an immediate family member of faculty or staff, you can join too. The one I belong to used to serve as the rusty vault into which I stuffed money. It was hard to get to and with limited hours, even small, regular deposits added up – mostly for Miss Sasha’s tuition, but I’ve stopped having nightmares about writing those checks and the credit union’s services are online now. Anyway, credit unions have branched out into home and car loans, CDs and other thingies. The credit union gave me a loan for my braces. Straight teeth, yay! I paid it back in record time and improved my credit rating, also yay! Bonus: a credit union can also connect its members to better insurance policies.

The big banks, generally, are too big. Many are insolvent and many more are unstable. There’s no incentive for them to do anything but exploit their customers to the bitter end. You may not have to suck on that. What if you could move your finances to an institution that wasn’t trying to fuck you over?

Give it a whirl.

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