One way credit unions can compete with the large banks is by belonging to ATM networks and the shared branch network. ATM networks can give credit union members access to surcharge-free ATMs around the nation. A shared branch network allows credit union members to conduct many banking transactions at participating credit union locations within the network, just as if they were at their home branch.
For shared branch networks, there used to be two main networks, the Financial Service Centers Cooperative (FSCC) and CO-OP Shared Branching. However, in 2012 FSCC was merged into CO-OP Shared Branching. So now CO-OP Shared Branching is really the only nationwide credit union shared branch network. It has nearly 5,000 nationwide branch locations. You might find a few other smaller ones. The Xtend CU Shared Branch has 190 locations nationwide with most in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.
According to this Credit Union Times article, in 2013 we will "see an increased deployment of shared branching as well as a rising profile for this service." This is good news for savers since shared branches can make it easier to fund CDs and move money around. I experienced the benefits of shared branching in 2011 when I was a beneficiary of a CD from a credit union that was part of the shared branch network. When I closed the CD and received the check, I was able to immediately deposit the check into my own credit union which was also part of the shared branch network.
To find out if your credit union is part of the CO-OP Shared Branch Network, refer to the CO-OP Network search tool. This will also let you know if your credit union is part of the CO-OP ATM Network. You can also use the search tool at CUServiceCenter.com to see if your credit union participates in shared branching.
One thing that's confusing is that your credit union may show up at CUServiceCenter.com, but it may not show at the CO-OP Network site. One reason for the difference may be that some credit unions don't fully participate in shared branching. A credit union may be an issuer (offering their members the shared branching locations) without becoming an acquirer (accepting transactions from guest credit union members). CUServiceCenter.com appears to include credit unions that are just issuers while the CO-OP Network site doesn't appear to include these.
Below are a few of the popular credit unions with information on shared branch and ATM network participation. Unfortunately, some of the top credit unions for savers don't participate in the shared branch network.
- Alliant Credit Union - No Shared Branches (except in Hawaii), ATM Networks: CO-OP, Alliance One, Credit Union 24, Allpoint
- Melrose Credit Union - Shared Branches, ATM Networks: CO-OP
- Mountain America Credit Union - Shared Branches, ATM Networks: CO-OP
- Navy Federal Credit Union - No Shared Branches, ATM Networks: CO-OP, Money Pass
- Pentagon Federal Credit Union - No Shared Branches, ATM Networks: ? (PenFed ATM tool currently not working)