All Hail the Union
September 8, 2006 7:55 AM   Subscribe

How do you find and pick the right credit union?

I'm finally moving past the bank my parents picked for me 25 years ago, and generally taking more responsibility for smart personal finances. I'd like to move all of my partner and my accounts to a credit union, but I don't know how to pick which one. My partner works for a university now but soon won't, and my company doesn't offer any particular memberships. All the credit unions I see online seem local and really small, is that a problem? Would I get worse rates and benefits if I went with a larger one like Smart Financial? If you use a credit union, how's it going for you?
posted by pomegranate to Work & Money (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I picked mine like this: It was located in the cafeteria where I worked. We've since moved and it's now located in a shopping center across the street, still convenient. With that said, I'm just too lazy to switch. I didn't get my first mortgage from them, 'cause their rates sucked. I had a car loan, where the rates were competitive. I didn't refinance my mortgage through them, again because their rates suck. Basically what they have going for them is proximity to where I work and good web banking. The premise is that you are a 'member' instead of a customer, but really, commercial banks like (for example) Commerce count coins for free, offer free checking and are open seven days. That is way better service than I'm getting.
posted by fixedgear at 8:02 AM on September 8, 2006
posted by matildaben at 8:47 AM on September 8, 2006

Smart move to join a credit union! I have had few if any problems doing all my banking at CUs over the years. My mom worked at one for many years, and this is what got me interested. The link above should help you find the names of credit unions in your area, and be sure to search for info on each of the credit unions you find. When I relocated a few years ago, I used the finder and one of the CUs listed, upon further research, turned out to have had a rogue employee who had been selling off customer info to identity thieves. I learned this only because I went into the CU lobby, found a copy of their members newsletter and read about it in there (plus the fact that no one seemed interested in helping me made me very suspicious! In my experience, CUs go out of their way to greet you, and are generous in sharing information about their products and services).

Good luck with your search!
posted by kuppajava at 8:49 AM on September 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

Credit Union locator

d'oh! i'm only fueled on one cup of coffee at the moment...
posted by kuppajava at 8:53 AM on September 8, 2006

Why do you want to go to a credit union? I banked at a couple for years, I guess because of the greeny sounding "union" in the name. The genesis of my disillusionment was when when I found out most credit unions won't offer first time homebuyer mortgages. Really?

Soon thereafter, I discovered that in fact, they weren't much different than regular banks. They charge for online banking; they'll pull up your credit report onscreen but because of some supersecret banking law won't tell you about it or what your score is; they charge you for withdrawing money from a foreign ATM; and to top it off, they don't have nearly as many ATMs as, say, Wells Fargo. Plus, many have low balance limits.

Yeah, they might have nicer customer service than chain banks, but if you have direct deposit, billpayer, etc., how often are you really going to go into a lobby?

I always had this totally unsubstantiated idea that by banking at a credit union, I was helping build a fund that would be used to help offer credit to underserved or disadvantaged people. But credit unions have the same lending and credit requirements as any bank.

I'd find a nice local chain instead, if you want a more personal banking experience.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:42 PM on September 8, 2006

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