New Year, New Account: 4 Reasons to Choose a Credit Union

Whether it’s the sky-high fees for checking accounts or too-tight standards for loans, many people have become disenchanted with their banks. Fortunately, they’re not the only option. If you’re unsatisfied with your bank, you can take your business elsewhere.

That “elsewhere could be a credit union. Over 96 million Americans currently use one for various economic and service-related reasons. Here are a few reasons you might want to do the same.

1.     Great Interest Rates

Credit unions generally outperform banks in terms of interest rates. Here are a few highlights from the National Credit Union Administration’s (NCUA)latest report:

        Credit unions, on average, have nearly (and in some cases more than) double the interest rates of banks on all types of CDs  (Share Certificates).

        Credit unions’ interest rates on checking, money market and savings accounts are more than double those offered by banks

        Credit card interest rates are slightly lower at credit unions (10.99%) vs. banks (11.82%)

        Both new and used car loan rates are significantly lower at credit unions, and credit unions often provide discounts for members

        Home equity loans carry lower rates at credit unions

Rates vary from institution to institution, so contact your local credit union if you’re looking for specifics. But know that, in almost every case, you’ll save money by using a credit union. 

2.     A Commitment to Financial Education

Credit unions operate on a not-for-profit basis. That is, unlike banks, which have an incentive to sell as many services as possible, credit unions typically offer more objective advice. Take advantage of this by finding a credit union that offers financial education services, including valuable credit card tips and seminars on other financial topics.

3.     More Flexible Loans

Due to default risks and other economic realities, banks often shun those who are in a tight financial spot, even temporarily. Thus, if you’re still trying to build credit, or you’ve made a few mistakes, you might be out of luck when applying for bank loans. However, since they’re typically focused on helping others instead of on profits, credit unions often have more flexible loan standards.

4.     Personalized Service

Credit unions consistently outperform banks in customer service. According to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), credit unions received an 85 out of 100. The biggest banks scored from 69 to 76, depending on the specific institution, while all other banks scored an 83.

Final Word

With better interest rates, better service and better loan policies, there’s no reason not to join a credit union – especially not eligibility. While credit unions once typically served employees of a specific business, many of their membership requirements are now more inclusive. You can often join because you live and/or work within a city or neighborhood. In addition, once you’ve joined, your family members tend to also be eligible for membership. So if you’ve resolved to save more in 2014, there’s no better way to start than by joining your local credit union.

Alice Holbrook, NerdWallet

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Fees Happening at a Checkout Near You

A court settlement between retailers and the payments industry allows retailers–brick-and-mortar stores and onine merchants–to pass their credit card acceptance costs on to consumers in the form of a fee. Retailers can decide whether or not to charge this fee, according to the Electronic Payments Coalition, Washington, D.C.

Here are steps you can take to avoid checkout fees:

• Shop around. Merchants are allowed to charge a fee equivalent to what they’ll pay to accept your card, typically between 1.5% and 3% of the total purchase. Some merchants won’t charge fees for using a credit or charge card. Before you get to the cash register, look for in-store signage or ask a sales person if you’ll be charged a fee. If you will, consider shopping elsewhere.

• Know your rights. By law, merchants can’t surprise you with fees at the last minute, try to hide fees, or overcharge you. Retailers must provide clear disclosure of fees with signs at the store entrance, at the point of sale, and on the customer’s receipt. Receipts must list the amount of the fee, a statement saying the merchant is imposing a fee, and reassurance that the fee isn’t more than what it will cost the merchant to accept the card. Online merchants must disclose fees on their homepages.

• Request a discount. Don’t hesitate to ask merchants that charge a fee for a discount.

Checkout fees remain illegal in 10 states. Consumer Action recently published an online guide with information about checkout fees and a list of these states on its knowyourcard.org website.

Just as you should shop around for merchants who don’t charge fees, you also should shop around for credit cards offering low rates and fees. Check out Hopewell Federal Credit Union’s low-rate credit card. Stop by or visit us online at http://www.hopewellfcu.org.

Does Spring include Graduation? Be Prepared!

Each spring thousands of college graduates leave the safe haven of university life for the real world. From paying off student loans to the shock of auto insurance rates, there’s a host of new financial experiences awaiting these grads, and some situations for which they’re totally unprepared.

A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Business and Social Science found that 70% of undergraduates own credit cards. The report also states that very few students use their card for tuition but that most of the students would use credit cards for school supplies, textbooks, and food. Almost half the respondents say they only use their credit cards during emergencies.

The cost of credit
Perhaps the most unsettling surprise for recent college graduates surrounds the long-term impact that poor credit decisions can have during and after college.

To help avoid getting into credit trouble, college students and recent college grads should get copies of their credit reports to have a clear picture of their financial situations. Credit reports also can show the deep impact debt can have on credit histories, and allows you to spot any inaccurate information. Individuals can obtain a free copy of their credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus–Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion–once a year.

In addition to obtaining a credit report, young grads also will want to regularly check their credit score. A credit score is a number from 300 to 850 and is used by potential lenders to determine the interest rate on loans and whether credit is granted, and at what cost. A credit score also can be obtained from each of the three credit reporting bureaus–but at a cost of around $15.

It’s never too early to start saving for retirement
One of the most serious mistakes young grads can make is to put off saving for retirement. Those in their late teens and early 20s may think that planning for retirement makes little sense, considering that it’s an event that won’t take place for another 40 years. But retirement is a process as well as an event. What occurs in the many years that lead up to retirement has a profound effect on the quality of retirement once it arrives.

Save for a rainy day
Many financial experts recommend you have three to six months of your salary and income put away in case of an emergency or unexpected expense. It’s important that this money be liquid, which means that you can withdraw it without penalty at a moment’s notice. You also will want to earn as much interest on it without incurring risk, which may make a money market account your best option. While you’ll never lose the money deposited into this account, you’re not guaranteed to increase the value either.

Call Hopewell Federal Credit Union today. We’re ready to provide the services and support you need–as you get started and as you move through life

Store Cards: Seldom the Better Deal

With offers of an additional 10% off your purchase or free merchandise, it’s tempting to apply for credit cards from your favorite retail stores. Think twice, however, before signing up. If you don’t pay the bill in full at the end of each month, you could end up paying much more than you originally would have saved.

That’s because interest rates on retail cards average about ten percentage points higher than credit union credit cards.

Store cards usually offer special incentives for cardholders to increase loyalty and encourage them to spend more. The average household has about seven store-issued credit cards.

If you plan to buy a car or house in the near future, it can hurt your chances to get a loan at a favorable rate if you have many recently opened lines of credit. It’s usually better to have one major credit card that you can use for all items you wish to charge.

Hopewell Federal Credit Union offers credit cards at great rates.  Visit www.hopewellfcu.org to learn more.

Five Biggest Summer Spending Blunders

It’s that time of year again. You’re feeling carefree and in the mood to … spend. Hang on to your wallet and beware of the following, according to MSN Money:

Weddings
On average, there are 2.5 million weddings celebrated each year, many in the summer. If you’re on the guest list, plan ahead and budget for gifts. If you see something on sale now, pick it up. The bride will never know you got it for half price.

Garage sales
Warm weather inspires many people to drag out the junk they don’t want and sell it to someone else. Block the temptation–don’t stop at a yard sale unless you’re really looking for something.

Camping
This year you’ll forego the fancy hotel and plane trip and rough it in the woods. Be careful, that $450 sleeping bag that will keep you warm down to -10 degrees Fahrenheit might not be what you need–in the summer. Outdoor sporting goods retailers know consumers want the coolest equipment. Also keep in mind park entrance fees, campsite fees, and other items you’ll need such as firewood and food.

Don’t be taken by the “Old Ball Game”
According to Team Marketing Report, the cost for a family of four to attend a major league ballgame including tickets, food and beverages, and souvenirs is now $194.98. Consider watching the game on TV, or, if you do go, eat before the game and set a limit as to what you’ll spend on extras.

Credit cards
Consider leaving the credit cards at home. It’s easy to use plastic, but your worst nightmare could be paying for that summertime fun after your tan has faded. If you think you will need to use a credit card, talk to someone at Hopewell Federal Credit Union. Credit union credit cards interest rates generally are lower than bank credit card rates.

Copyright 2010 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.