What Credit Unions Have to Offer

| December 11, 2008


CREDIT UNIONS VS. BANKS

credit union avg. % bank avg. %
SAVINGS
Regular savings
0.74 0.49
Interest checking
0.45 0.35
Money market
0.99 0.58
One-year CD
2.13 1.91
CONSUMER LOANS
Regular credit card
11.96 12.21
48-month new car
4.72 6.38
48-month used car
5.02 7.05
36-month unsecured
10.85 12.07
MORTGAGE LOANS
Home equity
4.77 4.93
One-year ARM
4.03 4.11
30-year fixed
5.82 5.83

When Kay Lucas of White Haven, Pa., needed to finance her 1998 Peterbilt 379, she went to her credit union. “They were really fair with me,” says Lucas, who is leased to Werner Enterprises.

Fairness, a low interest rate and good experience with prior loans were reasons enough for Lucas to turn to Cross Valley Credit Union in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Commercial banks still do far more heavy truck loans than do credit unions. But as credit unions have grown, more of them have taken on small-business lending. Even if you’re not looking for a truck loan, it’s a good idea to consider credit unions for your basic banking services. Compared to commercial banks, credit unions traditionally offer lower fees, lower interest rates on loans and higher interest rates on checking or savings balances.

That’s not to say banks don’t have certain advantages, especially compared to the small or medium-sized credit unions, says Charlotte Birch, spokeswoman for the American Bankers Association. “Banks tend to have larger branch and ATM networks,” she says. “They might have a broader product range.”

Furthermore, “Small-business loans are the bread and butter of banking, so they’re very interested in courting small-business owners,” Birch says. “Particularly you hear this about community banks – the kinship they feel with other entrepreneurs because essentially that’s what they are.”

Those large credit unions that have come to resemble banks have grown in part by broadening their eligibility requirements. For example, some now offer membership to everyone living or working in a multi-county region. That’s a far cry from credit unions’ founding days, when one institution represented only people with a common bond, typically an employer.

This loosening of membership makes working with a credit union a little easier for owner-operators, says Gary Aitken, an owner-operator accountant in Indianapolis. “It was difficult for a sole proprietor to go in and establish an account with a credit union,” he says. “Now they seem to take anybody.”

If you want to consider credit unions for a truck loan, first check whether any in your area offer them. Then see whether you are eligible for membership. If so, it’s worth pursuing.

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