Not all credit unions are created equal. Some are larger and others are small. Some offer a plethora of products and services while others stick to basic banking. Some do a better job delivering the credit union promise while others do act more like banks. Some are single branch operations while others have dozens of branches spread across a region.
However, the credit union system is unique in that many credit unions work together to make banking better for the general population. But, are credit unions really convenient for the general population?
For 96 million people the answer is a resounding yes. From small to large, many credit unions offer a wide array of services that make the non-branch user’s experience excellent.
2 Reasons Why Credit Unions are Convenient
1. Many credit unions have access to a nationwide network of surcharge-free ATMs. Ok, not all credit unions participate in extensive ATM networks. So ask your credit union what networks you can use to get surcharge-free access to your cash. I’ve found many credit unions are part of the CO-OP network that gives you access to over 28,000 ATMs in places you shop such as the corner drugstore, 7-11, theaters and gas stations. Some credit unions join additional ATM networks expanding access to over 50,000 surcharge-free ATMs. That’s more than two of the major banks’ ATM networks combined. The downside is that your credit union brand isn’t visible. The upside is that their are many ways to find surcharge-free ATMs.
- Call your credit union. Find out what ATM networks are surcharge free. For example, some credit unions are part of the COOP network, AllPoint, or CU24.
- Use mobile apps. Check out your credit union’s mobile app or the COOP ATM app on the Apple store or Google Play.
- Credit Union Websites. Check your credit union website’s ATM locator.
2. Many credit unions also share branch access. This is the ultimate badge of cooperation. Imagine your small credit union having a network of 5,000 physical locations nationwide. It’s a little known fact that many credit unions are interconnected on what’s called “shared branching.” Basically, this means as a member of one credit union you have the ability to go to another credit union to transact your banking at that physical location. Services such as deposits or withdrawal in a teller window will cost you nothing. If you want cashiers checks, make coin deposits or other services there may be a small fee. Keep in mind if you have a question about your account or want to apply for a loan you must contact your credit union directly. Your credit union must participate in the shared branching network in order for you to take advantage of this service.
You might hear the terms CU Service Center, sister branches, shared branching, partner branches or cooperative branches. These are essentially the same to mean a credit union is part of a network that allow you to transact banking business at various physical locations.
- Speak to your credit union. Find out if they are part of the shared branch network.
- Visit your credit union website’s branch locator. Find a shared branch location to make deposits or withdrawals miles away from your credit union.
- Visit www.Co-opsharedbranch.org (the not easy to remember URL). Download the mobile app for your iPhone or Android version.
So, if you are a member of a small credit union and you move 3000 miles away, you’ll most likely not have to leave your beloved credit union for one “closer” to you.