Sunday, August 12, 2012

Between Credit Unions and Banks in Your Town

You probably have a checking account with one of the banks in your town. You have credit unions as well. Perhaps you never realized how different these two institutions are, or your decision was made based on hours of operation, and where the closest ATM was located. Looking for a financial institution based on convenience is not a bad thing. Convenience is one of many things we should consider. Another factor we should consider is how important supporting our own community is. How important is it that our financial institution work for us?
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two types of institutions is who they work for. A credit union is not for profit. This means that decisions made are made by volunteers, and shareholders in your community who were voted in to take on this responsibility. You are a shareholder if you have a share draft or checking account. When you make a deposit you are buying shares in the company. They pay you back with the lower interest rates on loans and the higher interest rate on checking. The downside to these institutions is getting money out may require going to a branch. ATM cards may have fees, or there may be few ATMs to withdraw money from without incurring fees. Another downside might be not having online bill pay. Of course some credit unions may offer more than others, you simply have to stop in and see.
When considering banks in your town you will see that they spend money on advertising. Why is that? They need to compete with other institutions, and have something that draws customers in. Free checking, no minimum savings or free use of ATM's, conveniently placed all over your town and neighboring towns may be their edge. However, while these services are often very convenient, they still might not be right for you. Banks are primarily interested in making money, and turning a profit whenever possible. When you deposit your money you are lending it to them, which, of course they pay you back with interest. However, that interest may not be very much.
In the end you are left to make your choice. You can, of course, use both institutions, but most people prefer one, or make the decision based on what is important to them. You may find that a credit union is more convenient for your family, and feels more secure since you know everyone who works there from your community. Or you may feel that using a bank in your town makes more sense because they have ATMs in the town you work in too. More access to your money might be your motivating factor. Both institutions have their place.

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