While Webb and her husband served in the U.S. Air Force, she was a member of a military-affiliated credit union. After they both left the military and moved, Webb assumed she was ineligible to retain her membership, but that was not true. More than 1,600 credit unions participate in the CU Service Centers shared branching network, making it possible to bank at nearly 6,400 branches nationwide. Members of participating credit unions can find a shared branch at www.cuswirl.com.
According to Webb, credit unions operate by core values that serve their members. “We provide members with financial education and a plan to improve their financial standing. We won’t approve loans our members can’t afford.”
Among the principles that guide credit unions are education and training including financial education for members’ children and teens, and a commitment to local communities. Many credit unions provide access to free financial planning services, including retirement planning and debt and credit counseling.
Despite the many advantages of banking with a credit union, some members do encounter drawbacks. Treadwell, for instance, says that technologically his credit union is rather behind the times. “The online banking offerings are not as extensive [as his former bank’s]. Overall their communication technology is somewhat antiquated.” You won’t find a credit union branch on every corner, and some have a thin ATM network, though many refund fees charged for using other ATMs.
But Treadwell says the customer service is sublime. “I’m charged fewer fees overall, and my credit union is much more forgiving. If I ran into a problem with my former bank, they could never reverse the fees, but here the customer service is more personal, and though I’m responsible with my money, they seem to understand that sometimes life happens.”
Webb says smaller credit unions don’t advertise because they have smaller marketing budgets and they’re more interested in using their money to serve the members they have. “Serving our members is what credit unions are all about.”
This article originally appeared in the June 2010 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.