Posts in Category: bank alternatives

Credit Unions: More Convenient Than You Think they Were 

By: Daniel Jacinto

How many times have you heard cons that seem to outweigh the pros of becoming a credit union member? You may have heard that free ATMs for are scarce. You may think that a credit union is too local, that you can’t get branch services nationwide. You may also think, “How could a credit union compete with my big bank that offers a vast number of services?”

Credit unions have often been labeled as inconvenient and low-tech. But that isn’t all necessarily true. What you may not know is that credit unions are financial cooperatives. They work together on one sole purpose–benefitting their members. It’s what credit unions believe in. It’s what they were founded on, the “People Helping People,” mantra. That’s why credit unions nationwide have established a network through CO-OP Financial Services that challenges the “inconvenient” and “low-tech” labels.

The Shared Branching network through CO-OP Financial Services has over 5,400 branches nationwide that provide full-branch services to you–the member. This cooperation places credit unions as the 3rd largest in branch locations nationwide, ahead of competitive opposition like Bank of America and PNC Bank. If you’re a member of credit union that is part of that network, you can find Shared Branching locations where you can conveniently do your banking by using the online locator. There are also apps for both iPhone and Android phones where you can quickly and easily find branches and free ATMs.

Speaking of ATMs…there are nearly 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs in the network that provide convenient account access at locations including 7-Eleven, retail locations, and more!

In addition to being convenient, credit unions are also personal. They treat you like a member, not just a number. As a credit union member, you have a voice in the fate of the credit union’s future thanks to their democratically-controlled structure.

New Jersey’s credit unions provide banking you can trust! They have the banking services you need, with  little to no fees for accounts, low loan rates, and higher deposit rates. To find one near you check out this locator here!

4 Reasons You Should Join a Credit Union Today! 

By Daniel Jacinto
January 25, 2016 Categories: bank alternatives

Ever wanted to join a credit union? Don’t know what a credit union can do for you?

Let’s start with a brief overview…

Credit unions are the financial world’s best-kept secret. There are 217 million credit union members spread out over 57 thousand credit unions in 105 countries.

These member-owned, not-for-profit financial cooperatives provide a number of financial services to members. Credit union membership is based on commonality. Members belonging to a specific, community, organization, religion or employer are able to join a credit union.

Read on for four reasons to join today!

Member-Owned, Not-for-Profit Financial Institution
The not-for-profit structure of these cooperatives means that any net income is used to benefit the credit union member. Members will see lower interest rates on loans, higher interest rates on savings accounts, dividends, or new product and service development at the credit union.

And, almost all credit unions have unpaid, volunteers as that make up their board of directors, unlike other financial institutions whose directors and shareholders benefit from the profits made.

Low Rates on Loans
Credit unions offer substantially lower loan rates compared to banks, especially when it comes to car loans. According to an SNL Financial, Inc. December 2015 study, the interest rate for a new car loan (48 months) at a credit union is 2.58% in contrast to 4.62% at a bank. For used car loans (48 months) credit unions offer 2.78% interest in comparison to 5.16% with banks.

Little to No Banking Fees
In terms of banking fees, you’ll probably find little to no fees at credit unions in contrast to their counterparts. Whether it’s checking account fees, foreign ATM fees, or penalty fees, at a credit union they will likely be lower or not there at all.

Highly Rated Member Service
Credit unions are known for their member service. “Credit unions are among the highest-rated services we’ve ever evaluated, with 93% of their customers highly satisfied, on average, vs. 69% for the four biggest national banks,” said Jeff Blyskal of Consumer Reports.

Credit unions are also highly rated in terms of trust in comparison to big banks. According to Temkin’s Trust Rating Scale, credit unions scored 80%, while the highest rated bank (TD Bank) only scored 66%.

How can you join a credit union?
Find a credit union near you that can offer you these perks and more by visiting and search for one by zip code. 

Credit Unions and Small Business: Their Underdog Story 

By: Austin Rigby
November 25, 2014 Categories: bank alternatives

Near the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art stands an iconic symbol, a statue, for Americans. This statue represents a man who would get hit over and over; sometimes he would fall, but ALWAYS he would get up and keep on fighting. That man was Rocky.

Rocky is just one of the many underdog stories we love here in America. We want the little guy to win. We want him to overcome the big forces that seem to have all the money and resources to do whatever they want. The little guy has to be thrifty, cunning, and come up with a unique plan so he can win in the end. The underdog’s secret and x-factor is heart. They simply want it more!

The underdog is ingrained into our blood as Americans. Just look back at how we started as a nation. To win our independence, America had to go up against the number one power in the world. England was such a powerful country, that it was said, “the Sun never sets on the British Empire”. Looking at the resources the Americans had in comparison to the British, we should have had no shot in winning our independence. What was the secret to our success? It was our x-factor, we wanted it more!

It seems like today’s underdog attention focus is on sports and movies, and we seem to forget about the real-life, day-to-day underdog battles that are happening all around us; those of the small business. Within the last few decades, the buying and consumption of objects are unique. No longer are we going to markets and vendors to buy our food, instead we go to places such as, Acme, Shoprite, or a Costco. If we need household supplies, we go to Target or Wal-Mart. All of our spending takes place at “Big Box” stores. Small businesses may not have all the fancy commercials or advertising that large businesses have, but they do have quality products.

Small businesses are usually run by owners, which means that they are extremely invested into the day-to-day events of their business. When I go to the grocery store, I feel like I am experiencing the McDonalization process. I just go through the check out line as fast as possible with very little communication with the clerk working there. To add onto this, many stores are removing human clerks and replacing them with “self check out.” That’s the beauty of small businesses, they have people to interact with you. Lets not forget the importance of human-to-human contact. These business owners know the product, which they are selling inside and out, so it is easier to help customers by answering questions and solving problems. Other than the human touch, small business is extremely helpful to America’s economy. Forbes Magazine had some interesting statistics about small business. “There are almost 28 million small businesses in the US.” “Over 50% of the working population works in a small business.” “Small businesses have generated over 65% of the net new jobs since 1995”. You see, small business doesn’t just offer quality products with people who know what they are talking about, but they also provide a ton of jobs for the American economy. These small businesses could range anywhere from Mom and Pop pizza shops to jewelry stores.

One example of these small businesses, which offers many jobs to Americans, is credit unions. According to the Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) mid-year report of 2014, the nation’s credit unions employ about 270,000 people.

The origins of credit unions date back to Germany within the 19th century. Herman Schulze-Delitzsch worked with his community to organize a mill and bakery, which would sell bread and reduce prices. Many years later in Quebec, Canada, Alphonse Desjardins organized La Caisse Populaire de Levis to help the citizens have affordable credit because everyone was being charged ridiculous prices for loans. Desjardins would a few years later open the first credit union within the United States of America, the St. Mary’s Cooperative Credit Association. Credit unions’ purpose is to help the little guy, the underdog, be able to acquire goods and services at reasonable prices. Credit unions’ purpose isn’t to get the Board of Directors or shareholders rich, it is to help all the members succeed financially.

A more modern example of this is First Financial Federal Credit Union (FFFCU), based in Wall, N.J. FFFCU was started by a group of Asbury Park schoolteachers during the Great Depression. This small group of people worked together to support each other and grow. Many years later, in 2003, the credit union expanded to support all who live, work, worship, or attend school within Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Just this week research has come out from American Customer Satisfaction Index, proclaiming that credit unions have the highest customer satisfaction score of all financial institutions. To quote CUNA on this, “ACSI…ranks credit unions substantially better than traditional banks on every component including expectations, quality, value, loyalty and having lower complaint rates. This is the seventh consecutive year that credit unions have ranked above banks.” You see, the little guy, the underdog can out-perform the bigger business of the world! Credit unions outperform banks, because they care more about their financial cliental, their member-owners. Credit unions work harder to help their members, because they have that x-factor, they have heart!

Credit unions, pizza shops, jewelry stores, and all other small businesses have a special day to celebrate how they stick it to the “Big Box” stores by providing quality goods to their communities. Saturday November 29, 2014 is the fourth annual Small Business Saturday. Small Business Saturday is a national event to give back to the small businesses of America. All over the USA, small businesses will be working together to help customers see how they are such an essential component of the community. These businesses provide to our communities through job creation, sponsorships, and quality products. So, go find those small businesses that are participating in Small Business Saturday within your community and visit them with your families. If you would like more information just go to their Facebook page!

So, go visit your neighborhood small business! Go say hi to your local credit union employees! Go and witness these everyday underdog stories prevail right in front of your eyes!

Fox Business Video on Alternatives to Big Banks—CUs Included! 

October 10, 2013 Categories: bank alternatives

Check out Fox Business' the Willis Report's piece on alternatives to big banks. Looking for a reason to ditch your big bank, this might help you!

MSN Money Outlines 7 Reasons Credit Unions are Better than Banks 

October 09, 2013 Categories: bank alternatives

Answering a reader’s question about whether a credit union is a good place to look for a car loan, an MSN Money article this week outlines seven reasons that credit unions are better than banks, and not just in terms of car loans.

The seven reasons MSN Money lists are:

1. Lower rates on loans

According to the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), as of June 28 the average rate on a 36-month car loan was 2.85% at credit unions and 5.59% at banks. Banks are charging nearly twice as much for the same loan.

2. Higher rates on savings

The rate differences on savings aren't as great, the article points out, but interest rates on 10 different types of accounts, from checking to five-year certificates of deposit, are higher on average at credit unions than banks, according to the NCUA Web site.

3. Better credit card deals

According to the NCUA, the average credit card interest rate in June was 12.85% for bank-issued cards, compared with an average of 11.56% for cards issued by credit unions. In addition, credit union credit cards tend to have lower fees and fewer of them.

4. Easier to borrow

While no lending institution is going to be careless with loans, community-based credit unions tend to be easier to deal with than megabanks. Lending decisions are more likely to be made locally with more flexibility.

In addition, while few national banks would make what's called a "signature loan"—an unsecured loan guaranteed only by your signature—credit unions routinely offer this service to their members with good credit.

5. Convenience

Credit unions have come a long way with making their online, phone, and in-person services as easy as possible. Many credit unions belong to a shared branch cooperative, the article points out, that allows members of one credit union to conduct business at any other member credit union anywhere in the country—even overseas. And when it comes to finding the nearest participating credit union? Yes, there's an app for that.

6. Lower fees

When it comes to banking fees, you'll probably find better deals at credit unions than at the giant commercial banks. Whether you're comparing fees to maintain a checking account, foreign ATM fees, or penalty fees for overdrawing your account, they'll probably be lower.

7. Human beings answer the phone

The article’s author explains that she’d never suggest that any business automatically beats another when it comes to friendly employees, however she described her experience when calling her bank's national customer service number to get a problem resolved as “not fun”.

When addressing the reader’s concern about safety, the article points out that members’ money is as safe at a credit union as it is at a bank. Credit unions offer the same deposit guarantee—up to $250,000.

The article goes on to say that in days past, it used to be a bit more difficult to find a credit union to join, but nowadays, many are community-based are require that you live, work, or go to school in the area, making the membership base very broad.

The article then points readers to,, and to search credit unions.

To read the MSN Money article in its entirety, click here.

4 Signs You Should Ditch Your Bank's Jennifer Goforth Gregory Outlines How to Tell Whether You Should Take Your Banking Business Elseware
March 01, 2013 Categories: bank alternatives

Not sure if you should move your money to another (maybe better) financial institution? MSN Money featured a story today from Jennifer Goforth Gregory of that helps you decide whether it's time to "ditch your bank".

"4 signs you should ditch your bank" asks "Have you had the suspicion lately that your longtime bank no longer suits your needs? Or have you recently opened an account at a new bank, only to feel like it's not a good fit?"

Gregory outlines the four things that might make switching your primary financial institution a good idea. They are:

  1. Your savings account interest rate is only average.
  2. Your checking account has a monthly maintenance fee.
  3. You rarely visit your local branch.
  4. The customer service has declined at your bank.

Each topic is discussed by Gregory, and while she makes no nods to credit unions, many credit unions offer higher savings rates, 100% free checking, plenty of online services and mobile banking, and are consistently rated as the top financial institutions for customer service.

The article also mentions's Bank Switch Kit as a tool to use when switching to a new financial institution. Often your new financial institution can provide valuable tools as well.

To read the article in it's entirety, click here.

The Rise of Alterna Banks 

Credit Unions Aren't the Only Option for Leaving Your Traditional Bank
January 30, 2013 Categories: bank alternatives

According to the FDIC, 821,000 households ditched their banks between 2009 and 2011. The financial crisis, the foreclosure robosigning scandal, and the huge amounts of money banks were raking in from fees turned many consumers against big banks. Bank Transfer Day during November 2011 was founded on some of these bad bank practices and had many consumers switching to credit unions.

Even as new regulations have forced banks to change some of their ways, more consumers are expected to close their accounts. A recent survey by Javelin Strategy & Research found that 11% of Americans plan to switch banking institutions in the next year.

While credit unions or community banks may be the best alternative to you—much like a traditional bank, but with none of the big fees or devious practices—others might find some of the “alterna-banks” a better fit.

An article in Time magazine, “The Rise of the Alterna-Banks: 4 Options Beyond Traditional Banking”, lays out four alternatives that might be of interest to consumers fed up with traditional banks.

1. Full-feature prepaid debit cards. Maybe you have been scared off from banks by overdraft fees and other zingers that zap your balance. You don’t mind paying a little bit, but you want to know what fees you’re paying upfront. You don’t really use paper checks, but you’d still like to get the other perks that come with a regular bank account. If these descriptions apply to you, look into prepaid cards.

What’s good: The prepaid landscape has expanded greatly over the past couple of years, prompting providers to lower fees and add features.

What’s not: Prepaid cards are still mostly unregulated. Most providers comply with rules for regular debit cards, so that customers are protected if a card is lost or stolen, but they are not required to comply. The lack of rules also means there is something of a free-for-all when it comes to fees. If choosing a prepaid option, be sure to examine the fine print so you know where all the fees stack up.

Standouts: Chase’s Liquid and Bluebird (offered jointly by American Express and Wal-Mart)

2. Web banking and budgeting accounts. New web-based platforms deliver a combination of banking and budgeting tools. They aren’t banks. But they do partner with financial institutions (like community banks and credit unions) that provide many of the services included in typical bank accounts. These platforms are loaded with money management tools that help users manage their spending.

What’s good: If you’re a fan of personal finance platforms like and wish you could keep your money in the same place you manage it, this option gives you one-stop-shopping on your computer or smartphone without the fees that weigh down most regular checking accounts. Heavy-weight analytics tools give in-depth insight into your spending and saving habits.

What’s not: If you want a brick and mortar banking experience like seeing a teller or visiting a branch, this probably isn’t for you. Also, standard account features like paper checks also might not be available.

Standouts: Kasasa (used by many credit unions) and Simple

3. Prepaid debit with high-interest savings. This category combines the functions of a prepaid debit account with the high-APR (relatively speaking) savings feature of online banks like ING Direct and Ally.

What’s good: Interest rates in the 5% ballpark—much, much higher than the average bank account rate, which is barely above 0%—are not unusual. Some providers offer budgeting and personal finance tools as well.

What’s not: In a word, fees. The eye-popping interest rate is the eye-catching figure these providers want you to see, not the fee schedule which will show you really aren’t making any money on your savings. Some cards even charge a fee with every transaction.

Standout: Mango

4. Mobile bank account. Green Dot, one of the granddaddies of prepaid debit, rolled out a mobile bank account last week, following its acquisition of a bank in 2011 and mobile-location service provider Loopt last year.

Called GoBank, it’s designed to appeal to consumers who grew up with smartphones and social networks. The entire experience takes place via the bank’s app for iOS and Android or through a user’s mobile web browser.

What’s good: It doesn’t hit users over the head with fees. The monthly fee is set up on a sort of honor system: there’s a “pay what you want” feature that lets customers choose an amount varying from nothing to $9 per month. There are no overdraft fees and few other fees (like $2.50 to use an out-of-network ATM). Direct deposit and mobile check deposit using the phone’s camera are free. Users don’t get checkbooks, but the bank will mail a paper check to anyone on request, or they can send money to people via text message or through Facebook.

What’s not: To deposit cash, users can buy a Green Dot MoneyPak for around $5, or deposit cash fee-free at Walmart cash registers with a swipe of your debit card. Green Dot plans to make this feature available at more retailers in the future. For people who aren’t used to conducting transactions via their phone—or who don’t have a smartphone—GoBank won’t be a viable option. But GreenDot is betting that younger customers would rather have their bank at their fingertips than down the block.

It's About Trust 

Credit Unions Beat National Average in Benefits Survey
January 21, 2013 Categories: bank alternatives

surveydataCredit unions pride themselves on being local, trustworthy financial institutions, unlike some of their counterparts, and employees agreed according to a national survey.

In the survey titled “Sharpening the Focus on Benefits Strategy”, the first in a series of research briefs stemming from Prudential’s “The Seventh Annual Study of Employee Benefits: Today & Beyond”, employees ranked credit unions as the most trusted source to help them grow and protect their money. Eighty-one percent said credit unions were a trustworthy source to help them safeguard their funds. Comparatively, 79% of employees saw their employers as a trustworthy source for growing and protecting their money.

Fourteen percent of both employers and employees cited severe negative economic effects, a decrease from 2010 results of 27% for employers and 22% for employees. Employers who said their financial position will be better or improving in one year dropped to 54% this year from 70% in 2010; employees report a drop to 38% from 44%.

Employers reported a 17% increase over 2010 results in making benefits strategies a main focus. With shifting ownership and cost of benefits to employees, employers’ top strategies included:

  • Expanding wellness, preventive, and work/life balance initiatives;
  • Improving the effectiveness of benefits communications;
  • Cost-sharing with employees;
  • Giving more financial responsibility to employees; and
  • Increasing employee benefits, education and financial advice.

New Study Shows Big Banks Equal Bigger Fees 

November 20, 2012 Categories: bank alternatives fees saving

Since Congress largely deregulated consumer checking and savings accounts in the early 80s, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) has tracked bank deposit account fee changes and documented the banks’ long-term strategy to raise fees, invent new fees and make it harder to avoid fees. A recent study over the last six months, interviewing 250 banks and 116 credit unions in 17 states and the District of Columbia and reviewing bank fees online in these and seven other states resulted in the report “Big Banks, Bigger Fees: A National Survey of Fees and Disclosure Compliance”.

The report examined the following questions:

  • How easy is it for consumers to shop around? Are banks complying with the Truth in Savings Act, which requires disclosure of a schedule of account fees to prospective customers?
  • Can consumers still find free or low-cost checking accounts or has free checking ended?
  • What can the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and other regulators do to help improve transparency in the financial marketplace?

Key findings included some of the following:

  • Only 48% of bank branches visited provided researchers with fee schedules as required by law on their first request. After two or more requests, eventually a total of 72% complied with the law. More than 1 in 10 (12%) of branches never complied and refused to provide fee information. Another 16% provided only partial information.
  • Researchers found a wide variety of free or low-cost checking options, with 63% of small banks and 60% of credit unions providing totally free checking. Although the biggest banks have recently tightened requirements to obtain totally free checking (available at only 24% of big bank branches), it is still available at more than half of big banks with a regular direct deposit (59%).
  • While more than half of big banks (62%) posted their full fee schedules on the web, versus less than one-third of small banks (29%), finding the fees was often a scavenger hunt. Many banks, especially big banks, placed fees in massive, clunky PDF files. Some banks even hid fee schedule links in footnotes or, worse, in their “site maps,” with no link available from the “compare checking accounts” page or any other pages.

The study also provides a list of key recommendations for both consumers, as well as regulators. Some of the consumer recommendations included the following:

  • Review your bank statements and count your fees. In addition to ATM surcharges, you may be paying your own bank an “off-us” ATM fee that only appears on your statement, whenever you use another owner’s ATM.
  • Examine how many fees you pay. Watch for a la carte fees you can avoid, for example, by only using online check images or statements. Use available text alerts to warn you of low balances that could result in overdrafts. Shop around. Look for better accounts. Bank at a credit union, not at a bank. Credit unions are member-owned, lower-cost alternatives to banks and often offer the same variety of services. It is easier to qualify for membership than most consumers think. Certainly, consider banking at a small bank, not a big bank. Consider moving your money by voting with your feet.

To access the full version of the study please click here. The recommendations might prove helpful to you if you are considering changing your financial institution or are looking for information on the type of fees you are being charged at your current financial institution.

Looking for the Best Credit Card, Credit Unions Might Be the Answer 

November 15, 2012 Categories: bank alternatives credit

Big banks are known for their fees lately and big bank credit cards are no different. Many people have switched to credit unions for their banking needs to avoid big bank fees and many are wondering if they should do the same with their credit cards.

A recent article by Janna Herron published on reviews the good, the bad and the tricky about credit union credit cards, outlining all the things to consider before making the switch.

Like most credit union loan products, the rates are much better than with the big banks. The average APR on a rewards credit card with a credit union was 9.38% as of November 1, 2012 compared with 12.89% for big banks. More interestingly, credit union credit card interest rates are capped at 18%. The National Credit Union Administration (much like the FDIC for banks) mandates the 18% cap for most loans made by federally chartered credit unions, although some short-term small loans have a 28% cap.

Credit union credit cards are also known for lower late payment fees, having a five-day grace period for late payments (compared to one at big banks), and having the same variety of credit card options, such as secured cards, reward cards and platinum cards.

One of the drawbacks to having a credit union credit card are lower limits than with the big banks. Credit unions are risk averse and new accounts will often face lower initial credit limits. Consistent on time payments can often increase the limits more quickly, but it is still a consideration before making the decision to switch.

To read the entire article, click here.

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