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72% of Credit Unions Still Offer Free Checking

March 10th 2015 by
2 comments

With credit union growth on the rise, big banks are scrambling to win back their customers. But Americans are finding they like being members, not customers. It’s no wonder why: big banks continue to fail in providing high-quality service at low cost. A recent Bankrate report paints the full picture.

Findings From Bankrate

Here are some key stats from the report:

  • 72% of credit unions offer free checking programs, while only 38% of big banks do. Five years ago, those numbers were 78% vs. 65%, indicating a rapid decline in free checking at banks.
  • 62% of credit unions require no minimum deposit. Those that do average a $9.84 requirement, compared to $65.83 at big banks.
  • Overdraft fees at credit unions average $26.78, compared to $32.74 at big banks.
  • Most credit unions have a large, cooperative ATM network which gives members access to 30,000+ ATMs nationwide.

Why Such a Big Difference?

The huge difference in benefits may make some skeptical as to why credit unions appear so much better on paper, but credit unions are simply organized differently. They are not-for-profit cooperatives that are run by members, not shareholders. Profits are returned to members in the form of high dividends, low interest rates and low fees.

Credit unions are also not an exclusive club that’s hard to get into. For example, anyone can be a member of Aspire FCU by joining the American Consumer Council, which is free to do.

How Easy is it To Switch Financial Institutions?

It’s actually not hard at all; I switched over myself when I joined the Aspire team. Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Write down what bills you have coming up and when they’re usually taken out of your account. To be safe, make sure you leave enough money in your old account to cover these upcoming bills.
  2. Change your direct deposit to your new credit union.
  3. Move the majority of your money (minus what’s needed to pay upcoming bills) into your new account and set up automatic payments to subtract from your new account.
  4. Close your old account and receive any balance you have from that account.

I was able to time it so I could switch over in one day. I just changed my direct deposit and billing information and then closed my old account. Never looked back!

If you’re tired of paying more to keep your money at a big bank, it’s time to try a credit union!


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