Pros: Friendly staff, 24 hour accessible, and that good ol' 1-800 number!
Cons: ATM lines occasionally go down, local bank means complicated service if far away
I have written enough already about my feelings regarding banks vs. credit unions. If you want to read my feelings on that, jump over to this URL: http://tigger1313.epinions.com/finc-review-3536-1A1257C-38C20C73-prod8
My mother began working for the State of Michigan in 1996 when she became an employee for the Department of Social Services (DSS), now Family Independence Agency (FIA) in Livingston County. We decided that where we were banking at the time (First of America, now National City) just wasn't working for us. Since she worked for the State, we were eligible to join the credit union.
Minimum deposit: By joining a credit union, you become a member. Unlike banks who have shareholders, the credit unions work for the members. The minimum deposit, like most credit unions, is $5. That's all that is required to keep an account open is $5 in a savings account.
Accessability: State Employees Credit Union (SECU) has gone high tech, and has over 70,000 branches in the state of Michigan. You are probably wondering how on earth they could possibly do that. Simple. With Personal Branch, also known as online banking, which is the latest wave in personal finance management. With the click of a mouse, you can assess your entire financial scheme with the credit union in one or two screens. You can pull up your current balances, loan information, and account history dating back years.
No computer? No problem! Just call QuickTips, the automated account information line at (517) 267-SECU (7328), or the handy dandy ol' 1-800 number (accessible nationwide), (800) YES-SECU (937-7328). Or, visit any branch of the bank and use the QuickTips computer system available there.
Fees: Credit Unions tend to have lower fees than banks do, and often times they yield higher rates of return on savings, CDs, and more. The checking account fee is $3 per month. If the checking account stays over $1,000 then checking is not only free, but the money accrues interest. Other fees, as with any financial institution apply, such as overdrafts and such.
ATMs, as with any financial institution, are free for use by all members at any SECU-operated ATM. However, SECU is a member of Alliance One, an ATM network that does not charge members of other Alliance One Member Credit unions for using their ATM. More information about that is available at http://www.atmallianceone.com
So what about those horrible pitfalls? Well, like anything, you know some are bound to appear. For example, I recently moved to Baltimore, MD from the Lansing, Mich. area. I have kept my finances at the credit union during this time, for one, because it simplified my life. Generally, I have had no problems. I have a debit card, which means I can use it just like cash anywhere MasterCard is accepted. But....
Problem #1: Apparently, there is a law that says while you can withdraw money across state lines, you can't deposit it. So, if you want to put money into an account without direct deposit, you have to do it the hard way. Snail mail. This however, is not a downside to the credit union itself. All financial institutions have to operate this way. I just found it a rather large annoyance.
Problem #2: Simply put, location. When I had a problem with my account, the people I was speaking with kept telling me that I should come in and talk to them. Kind of hard to do that when one is 600 miles away from the main branch. There is something to be said for having a bank with multiple locations nationwide.
Problem #3: Their ATM lines, which are considerably better now, were notorious for going down, especially over weekends. When i worked for Meijer, it was not uncommon for someone to have problems when trying to purchase groceries. When they tried their card for the fifth time, the first words out of my mouth were, "Is that a SECU card?" It normally was, and then I relayed the information to them about the network frequently going down over the weekends. While it is considerably more reliable, there are occasional quirks that can seriously inconvenience someone.
Major problems? Not really. Except in rare circumstances, mistakes have been in my favor, and the ones that weren't were corrected immediately. One took a bit longer to fix, but they corrected it on my word before receiving all information from the company I was supposed to get a refund back on my debit card from.
Now is that customer service, or what? Who could ask for anything more?