Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Getting nickeled and dimed by your bank? It's time to move your money to a credit union

From time to time, you've seen us extolling the virtues of taking your money out of the behemoth, monolithic Wall Street banks and investing in local, community-based credit unions here on The Advocate. In short, credit unions are accountable to those of us living on Main Street; they're member oriented and driven, making them more responsive to their customers.

The "too big to fail" banks are subject to the whims of Wall Street, and to this day, are still unaccountable for their actions in nearly destroying our economy.

As of today, you've got another reason to put your money into a credit union. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that due to regulations that are designed to protect consumers from the corporate greed exhibited by banks, the end of the era of free checking is coming.
Bank of America and other banks are preparing new fees on basic banking services as they try to replace revenue lost to regulatory rules, in a push that is expected to spell an end to free checking accounts for many Americans.

Free checking accounts, which have been widely available for more than a decade, have been a boon to middle-class consumers and attracted low-income customers to the banking system for the first time.

Customers will likely be required to pay new monthly maintenance fees on the most basic accounts that don't generate a lot of activity. To avoid a fee, customers will have to maintain certain account balances or frequently use other banking services, such as credit and debit cards, automated teller machines and online accounts.

I must be mistaken, but when I loan my money to a bank (which is essentially what I do when I deposit money to my checking and savings accounts), I thought it was my money. It's bad enough that when I loan my money to the bank, I get a paltry interest rate on my return, but if the bank loans me money the meager interest rate is not reciprocated.

Now the bank wants to charge me for a slip of paper that is essentially the same as a dollar in my wallet. It's my money, so why am I being nickeled and dimed by my own bank? Yes, for the record, I'm a long-standing Bank of America customer, though I'm reconsidering that since I'm also a Washington State Employees Credit Union member too.

Furthermore, people of lesser means who have opened accounts at banks are now going to incur fees because their account balance may not meet the bank's requirements or because they can't afford to purchase Internet access.

Why do big banks operate like this? Why are they always trying to find ways to rip off their customers? Because their primary mission is to make money for their stockholders, that's why. Banks aren't going to change, but you and I can. We can move our money to credit unions, where we are the customers and the owners.

Credit unions tend to give their member-owners a better interest rate on their savings and investment accounts, as well as, lower rates on loans.

To be fair, there are nominal fees involved with certain transactions at credit unions (which you'd find anywhere), but you don't see these financial institutions looking for ways to circumvent federal law in order to stick it to the customer in the form of more fees. Quite the contrary, actually.

During my last visit to my credit union, the teller saw the balance in my savings account and promptly asked me if I'd thought about some of the other services the credit union provides, in order to maximize the return on my investment. I was asked about my financial goals and services were recommended to me based on my answers. The conversation was all about me, the customer, and my needs. It was not about trying to sell me a product or making money off of me.

This is the kind of excellent customer service that I expect from a financial institution, and a big reason why I have accounts with WSECU.

WSECU again proved that credit unions are superior to big banks when my wife's purse was stolen. Upon our immediate notification, Bank of America terminated both of our ATM/debit cards. The only way I had access to my account at Bank of America was to walk into a branch, and write a check to get my cash.

WSECU, on the other hand, was able to just cancel and reissue only my wife's ATM card, because our cards were simply not linked in the same careless way they were at Bank of America. I still had the same convenient access to my money at the credit union, and it made life much easier.

Given NPI's experience with our credit union, we continue to highly recommend you look into one for your financial needs.

As Andrew wrote back when Washington Mutual failed:
A number of terrific credit unions have a strong presence in the Pacific Northwest. For those looking to move their money out of WaMu and into a friendly nonprofit financial cooperative, here are a few choices:
  • BECU (Boeing Employees Credit Union): The nation's fourth largest credit union, known for its innovation and willingness to help striking union members. Membership is open to all Washingtonians. Almost all of its branches are located in Puget Sound.
  • Watermark Credit Union (formerly Seattle Telco): Another well established local credit union centered in the Seattle area with a great reputation. Membership is open to all Washingtonians.
  • First Tech Credit Union: Originally founded by employees of Tektronix. Membership is open to residents of Lane County, Oregon, people who work for the State of Oregon, or Washingtonians and Oregonians working in the high tech sector for companies like Microsoft.
  • Global Credit Union (originally Fairchild Federal): Founded in the 1950s, Global is an excellent choice for residents in the Spokane area or the Tri-Cities.
  • School Employees Credit Union of Washington: Open to Washington teachers, education support professionals, university faculty, librarians, and their family members. An outstanding option for those who are eligible.
  • QualStar Credit Union (formerly Safeway Seattle Employees’ Federal): Another good choice for residents of the Seattle metro area. Membership is open to all Washingtonians.
This is a very short list. You can easily find a comprehensive list of credit unions that you are eligible to join at (requires Adobe Flash player).
If Congress won't hold the big banks accountable for their misdeeds, you, the customer can. You have a choice with regard to where you do your banking. Why let banks take your hard-earned money for no good reason? Educate yourself and make the best choice for you and your family. Why not put your money with an institution that cares about your needs before profits and stock prices?


Blogger Martha Koester said...

Also Woodstone (formerly Weyerhaeuser Employees)
and Salal (formerly Group Health)

June 22, 2010 3:19 AM  

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