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Ken Tumin founded the Bank Deals Blog in 2005 and has been passionately covering the best deposit deals ever since. He is frequently referenced by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications as a top expert, but he is first and foremost a fellow deal seeker and member of the wonderful community of savers that frequents DepositAccounts.

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Credit Unions Report Big Influx of New Members - Tips for Bank Transfer Day

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The bad publicity of the big banks' debit card fees and the Facebook-driven Bank Transfer Day have been a big win for credit unions. The Credit Union National Association reported on the results of an interesting nationwide survey of credit unions:

At least 650,000 consumers across the nation have joined credit unions in the past four weeks, reflecting consumers' reactions to rising fees at banks, according to a survey by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA)

According to The Huffington Post only 600,000 consumers joined credit unions in all of 2010.

One thing that may have discouraged credit union membership in the past is misconceptions about credit union qualifications and the services credit unions offer.

Qualifying for Credit Union Membership

Credit union have limited membership, but joining a credit union is probably easier than you think. All credit unions have a field of membership (FOM) in their charters that defines who can join. This can be based on the community where you live, where you work or what associations you belong to. Fortunately for us savers, FOMs have expanded in recent years making it easy to join many credit unions based on where you live or the associations you belong to.

For many credit unions you can join an association which makes you eligible for credit union membership. Also, once you are a member of a credit union, you can remain a member regardless of what happens to your original qualifications. So you don't have to maintain the association membership to continue to be a credit union member.

Here are three large credit unions that make it easy to join via an association:

  • Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed) is best know on this blog for its consistently competitive CD and IRA CD rates. Also, PenFed's reward credit cards are well known.
  • Alliant Credit Union has a savings account and checking account that beat the best internet banks in terms of both rates and online banking features. Alliant also has great rates on its HSA, CDs and IRA CDs.
  • Digital Credit Union (DCU) has very competitive CD and IRA CD rates. DCU is part of the shared branch network and several surcharge-free ATM networks. Its free checking account offers many perks including remote deposit and free optional monthly FICO credit scores.

Banking Services at Credit Unions

PenFed, Alliant and DCU provide online banking services that easily meet or exceed what internet banks offer. This is now common among many credit unions as described in the credit.com article Not Your Grandmother’s Credit Union. Some interesting stats mentioned in the article include:

  • 97% of credit unions offer web-based home banking
  • 94% offer online bill payment
  • 47% offer mobile banking
  • 71% belong to a surcharge-free ATM network

One stat it didn't mention is the number of credit unions that belong to the shared branch network, the CU Service Centers. This network allows members to perform many banking transactions at branches of other credit unions and self-service locations belonging to the network. Out of the three credit unions mentioned above, only DCU is part of this network. Alliant ended its shared branching membership last March. The shared branch network concept is very appealing to me, and I'm surprised more credit unions aren't members.

If you want to maximize the benefit of switching, check my post from yesterday on Bank Transfer Day Promotions at Credit Unions. For more info on credit unions and checking accounts, please refer to my post Finding the Best Free Checking Accounts at the Best Credit Unions.



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Comments
11 Comments.
Comment #1 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Ken, Why to you call yourself "Ken - Bank Deals Guy" over and over on your site when you are actually "Ken - Deposit Accounts Guy"?

I just wrote down your website name for a friend - and goofed. Because of seeing that so many times, I put bankdeals instead of depositaccounts as the URL!

Thank you for all your hard work!

 

1
Comment #2 by KenBDG posted on
KenBDG
The blog used to be at the bankdealsblog.com, but it was converted over into DepositAccounts.com in early 2010. The URL bankdealsblog.com points to DepositAccounts.com. If you search for "bank deals" on Google, DepositAccounts.com/blog will be the first non-ad link. I didn't want to give up the "bank deals guy" name. It sounds better than "deposit accounts guy" :-)

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Comment #3 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
When it comes to comparing banks to credit unions, we should not only examine their relationships with consumers, but also with merchants.  As far as the latter is concerned, a strong argument can be made that in the post-Durbin world banks, big and small, are now much more merchant-friendly than credit unions.

 

See, credit unions were exempted from the Durbin Amendment and as a result the fees they charge retailers accepting their debit cards are now much higher (83%, to be exact) than what banks charge.  http://blog.unibulmerchantservices.com/credit-unions-muscle-in-on-big-bank-territory

 

So we should not be losing sight of the issue that got the whole thing started – the size of the debit interchange fees. It seems to me that the issue is a very simple one. If a fee charged by one bank to a merchant is considered too high, it should also be considered too high if any other bank, or a credit union, charges it to that retailer. I just can't see it any other way and I can guarantee you that merchants see it exactly the way I do.

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Comment #4 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Ken,

I see how you got to this sqare, but it is too bad you can't sign yourself with your URL

       Ken, the bank deals guy, www.depositaccounts.com

You keep hammering "bankdeals" into our heads with every post :)

 

1
Comment #5 by Paoli2 posted on
Paoli2
You ever heard of the old saying "I don't care what you call me, just call me for supper?"  Well that's how I feel about Ken.  He can call himself whatever he wants as long as he keeps supplying us with this great site!  Especially these days when we have few places to go to find helpful financial info.  Multi thanks Ken!

6
Comment #7 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
digital credit union requires an active visa credit card line of credit.  after going into the visa credit card application, they ask me what is the amount of the loan i want?  If i don't want a loan, then i don't qualify for the relationship checking with dividends that is required to get the 5 year cd with the higher rate.  And, i really don't want to pay the $15 month fee.  Perhaps, i'm misunderstanding something? 

1
Comment #8 by Paoli2 posted on
Paoli2
#7  Why would Digital CU need an active Visa card line of credit?  Does this give them any access to our Visa card?   What if we don't use Visa?  I guess I will have to scratch Digital off my list of potential CUs. I also would not want to get stuck with a $15 monthly fee.  Thanks for sharing.

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Comment #9 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
Financial institutions view a credit card as a loan. They are asking how big a limit you want on the card.

1
Comment #10 by Paoli2 posted on
Paoli2
#9  Thanks for the explanation.  On my one credit card, I usually have to keep them from raising the limit since I do not like a high limit on the card.  I had no idea our credit cards could be used in the way you posted.  It's amazing the info we can learn on this forum.  I never thought of my credit card as a "loan" since I always pay it off fully each month.  However, technically, I guess I am "borrowing" from them until I pay off the bill.  Quite a lesson here.

1
Comment #11 by Paoli2 posted on
Paoli2
It seems that many people have taken advantage of switching to a credit union from the local news and what Ken posts on here.  However, what does that do to those of us who already have our funds tied up in banks and would have to lose thousands of dollars in EWPs unless we wait until our CDs mature next year?  Are credit unions limited to how many members they are allowed to accept and also how much money they can handle?  My concern is that if they get too much money flowing in, they may lower their rates or limit memberships and the rest of us will be locked out when we need them next year.  Has any one thought about this as being a serious problem or am I just worrying for nothing?  Thanks! 

2
Comment #12 by Anonymous posted on
Anonymous
This basically is for switching checking.  No ones advocating cashing in CDs early to take that to your CU.  This can be done later.  Some people in their early 20s are just starting out and need a low or no fee checking versus the big banks who were trying and keep trying to sneak extra fees in.

3