Article by: Sarah Nash
Account Relationship Manager – Member Lending Division
There’s a great saying: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” This rings true in so many areas of life. Unless you have experienced something yourself or have learned from a family member or friend; you just are not aware of some of the things out there! I’m going to use credit unions as an example.
Credit unions have been in North America since 1901. Alphonse Desjardins is credited with bringing credit unions to Levis, Quebec. This credit union was in his home! LaCaisse Populaire de Levis (The People’s Bank of Levis) was its name. The first deposit was 10 cents. On April 6, 1909, St. Mary’s Cooperative Credit Association, the first U.S. credit union opened in Manchester, New Hampshire with assistance from Alphonse Desjardins. There is a wonderful account of all the historical data regarding credit unions that the NCUA-National Credit Union Administration has put together on their website. I’ll leave you to read all the history if you choose. Historical Timeline | National Credit Union Administration (ncua.gov)
Maine has about 54 different credit unions. The word “about” is used in that statement as there are a few that are currently merging with other credit unions. The largest credit union in Maine is Atlantic Regional Federal Credit Union. They have $816.93 million in total assets and over 48,246 members. There’s a list of all the Maine credit unions shown here: Maine Credit Unions (ncuso.org) There’s a decent likelihood that a credit union is close to where you work or live. I urge you to visit (call ahead due to Covid-19 restrictions) one and see what they have to offer.
Most likely you have used a bank. Most banks are for-profit, meaning they make money on your money. Credit unions are not-for-profit because their purpose is to serve their members rather than maximize profits. Credit unions are owned by their members. Credit unions are understood to be better than banks because banks tend to have higher overhead costs, which are passed on to you, the customer. Credit unions pass on their lower overhead costs to their members (customers) in the form of higher deposit interest rates. You can find rate and fee schedules online to compare how a credit union benefits their members. I’ve attached one here for reference. This is for Lincoln Maine FCU. This is just one example. Rate-and-Fee-Schedule.pdf (lincolnmainefcu.com)
Most people know that a credit union can offer you savings accounts and checking accounts as well as loans. Most don’t know all the other amazing things credit unions can do for them. I feel as though the information on what they do offer needs to be shouted from the rooftops! There is a large percentage of our communities that are not aware of what a valuable resource a credit union can be for them!
Let me give you a list of the things a CU can do for you. I’m going to use Lincoln Maine FCU as an example. Not all CUs have all the same programs, but this will give you a better idea of what most can do for you! Look at the different accounts offered*.
- Checking/Savings also referred to as Share Draft/Share Accounts
- Club Accounts
- Educational Share Accounts
- Free4ME Checking
- Health Savings Account
- Money Markets
- Share Certificates
- Youth Accounts
Let’s talk about loans*! Yes, auto and home loans are included. Did you know that not all credit unions base their lending on just your credit score? They use many more factors in their lending practices. Do you know about these other kinds of loans?
- Christmas Loans
- Commercial Loans
- Consumer Loans
- Fuel Loans
- Personal Loans
- Real Estate Loans
- Vacation Loans
- Wedding Loans
- Visa Credit Cards, what? Yes, you can get a CC from your CU!!
It’s helpful to know that when you have certain loans with the CU, there are programs* you can enroll in to help keep you in a great financial position in the event of death, disability, and job loss. There are also programs that can keep you in a great financial position if you were to have a car accident or total your vehicle. Ask the CU you visit about these products. There are programs such as Debt Protection, Credit Life and Disability, Mortgage Life and Disability, Guaranteed Asset Protection, Auto Deductible Reimbursement, and Total Restart. There is even a vehicle service program you can purchase with your auto loan that can fix your car if it breaks down. Some credit unions even offer pet insurance!
OK, now let’s touch on Membership Benefit Options! Did you know that as a CU member you are eligible for special group discounts for several products and services*? Here are some packages offered by Lincoln Maine FCU.
- Life Insurance
- Auto/Home Insurance
- AD&D (Accidental Death and Dismemberment)
- Debt Protection
- MDLive Health Insurance
- Financial Planning
Your local credit union can do all of what I have listed above AND THEN SOME! They offer credit counseling and financial fitness education, and they genuinely care about your financial well-being. You are more likely to get help from your credit union on things that aren’t even related to the credit union. This is because they imbed themselves in their communities. I’d be willing to bet that your local credit union could point you in the right direction for whatever you needed. If you need a lead on a physician, carpenter, mechanic, church, entertainment, charities, or any other local resource, there’s someone at that local credit union that can assist you by referring you to someone who can help. I like to think of credit unions as extensions of your family. The care and concern they exhibit while helping their members succeed is real. They do not treat people like a number. They will likely get to know you on a more personal level, and you’ll end up on a first-name basis with the team members in your local credit union. I urge everyone to find a local credit union and get to know what they can do for you. I believe you will be impressed with the service you receive no matter which one you choose. I would suggest using the internet to find a local credit union and visit their websites to see if they carry the program you might be interested in for your financial well-being.
*Please note that Lincoln Maine FCU was used as an example only. They may not have all packages/programs, loans, products/services listed in this article, nor will all the other Maine credit unions. Each credit union is unique and offers different packages/programs, loans, products/services to their members.