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When it comes to matters of the economy in the United States, it’s safe to say that many Americans are ready for a shift in practices that consistently show preference to the wealthiest minority, while leaving the vast majority coming up short. Folks want to know how they can prosper and in some cases, keep their heads above water, in these economically turbulent times. Others may be looking for a means to communicate their disgust for the big banks and their ethics, to boot. The Move Your Money Project represents the perspective of a growing number of Americans who believe joining a credit union is an ideal way to do both. The transfer of hard-earned funds from a bank to credit union may be the right move for you, but to be sure, it’s best to take a closer look.

Who’s The Boss?

The most glaring difference between banks and credit unions is the basic nature of the two institutions. A nonprofit organization, the customer is a partial owner of his/her credit union. This explains why credit unions are known for their expert customer service. Without the concerns of reaching profit margins (or any such greed related endeavors), there are no predatory interests, so credit unions can focus in on what’s best for the client, not just the institution itself – because the customer is the institution.

Lower Interest Rates

For the most part, credit unions offer the same essentials as do banks, but because they’re exempt from paying most state and federal taxes they can typically offer higher savings account rates and lower rates on loans (which means more money stays in your pocket). In addition, credit unions differ from banks in that the large institutions issue stock and pay dividends to stockholders (which equals more money in their pockets – yours, not so much).

Lest Not Forget – The Fees…

It’s this issue that sparked the large influx of clients to credit unions nationwide since late September. Banks are infamous for tacking on fees for countless transactions, but after Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase announced plans to charge up to 5 bucks per month for debit card use, consumers were hot. The 3 big financial houses, feeling the heat, eventually backed off their lucrative agenda – for now. Learnvest explains that “soon, banks will have to figure out how to recover their losses,” and to expect perhaps a more clever strategy next time around. Conversely, many credit unions offer free checking and savings accounts with no maintenance or activity fees, and many reimburse their members for ATM surcharges.

The Social Aspect or “Sticking it to the ‘Establishment’”

This argument is a pretty straightforward view that claims banks – and all they stand for – suck, and outside of the mattress, or safe in your home, your local credit union is the best option for you, your community and the country at large. The Move Your Money Project suggests the following reasons to make the transfer to your local c.u.:

  • Invest in main street, not wall street
  • End too big to fail
  • Fewer fees, more savings
  • Get more personal service
  • Lend a hand to local businesses

 

Corrupt practices of big financial institutions are the driving force behind the Occupy Movement, which served as the inspiration for “Bank Transfer Day” in LA last Saturday. The brainchild of 27-year old Kristen Christian, it started out as a comment on her personal Facebook profile: “If you don’t want to pay the likes of Bank of America $5 a month to access your money via debit card, just transfer your cash to your friendly, local credit union.” By Saturday, hundreds marched through LA’s financial district, ultimately demonstrating their distaste with the “too big to fail” institutions by transferring their combined capital from big banks to credit unions.

While major banks may not trip over the mass transactions from last weekend’s “Bank Transfer Day,” the combined reallocation of funds over the past month or so may be some cause for concern. HuffPo recently reported that some 650,000 customers opened new accounts at credit unions since September 29, the same day Bank of America announced it would charge customers a $5 per month fee to use their debit card for purchases starting in 2012.

But at the end of the day, how does this relate to you?

By it’s expansive and complex nature, big banks can offer a few things credit unions simply cannot. If it’s convenience you crave, you may not find that with c.u.’s in terms of branch and ATM locations. In other words, if you don’t plan your withdrawals just right, you may find yourself getting hit with mucho external account ATM fees. Other limitations include decreased hours of operation, as compared to the big banks, tighter qualifications for membership and lack of specific services/products. More variety means more convenience in terms of having the ability centralize all your banking needs rather than having to keep track of numerous accounts at various institutions.

As Learnvest puts it: “If you’re looking for wider, national accessibility, a big bank might be your best bet. But if you’re keen on customer service and weary of fees, it’s worthwhile to look into a local credit union.” The choice is yours. Invest well, and prosper.

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  • Fatimah

    I’m not sure about the States, but in Canada there are some small bank options that have nice perks. PcFinancial.ca for example gives customers unlimited free interac purchases, no bank fees, and a few other interesting incentives. I have several accounts and investments there and I’m a satisfied customer!

  • EssDot323

    I have an account with BofA and wasn’t happy about the news to charge debit card fees. So I went with ING and I’m very happy.

    I wanted to go with a credit union but I prefer to pay with a debit card and use my bank’s ATM for cash withdrawals.

    ING uses the Allpoint network so all I have to do is look for their logo whenever I’m looking for an ATM and it’s surcharge free.

    I’ve had an ING Orange account for years and decided to open an Electric Orange (interest earning) checking account to keep my money housed under one roof.

    I’m a happy camper :-)

    You guys should also consider Ally Bank. They have 400,000 nationwide ATMs (surcharge free) whereas ING only has 35,000.

  • Pearlsrevealed

    I banked at Wells Fargo for many years and briefly at Chase. I moved my money from both because I felt they were unethical. Money vanishes from Chase accounts ALL THE TIME. I know of a few people who had to go through the headache of getting there money back. A year and half later, one acquaintance says she has yet to receive her money. ***print transactions & balances weekly to avoid this****

    I have had a free checking account at a local bank for the past 4 years. I am content but I do miss the availability of nationwide-surcharge free access to my money when I travel.

    The good thing about a local credit union is that you have access to your money- even make a deposit- at most credit unions throughout the country. IMO credit unions offer the opportunity to “be local.think gobally” or at least nationwide.

  • nikki

    yes!!! more people need to hop jon the credit union bandwagon!

    – FREE checking

    – national network of CUs whose ATMs and in-branch services you can use for FREE

    – lower interest rates

    – friendlier staff

    – debit card/credit card capabilities

    …AND i get to observe my accounts on mint.com

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