MADISON, Wis. (3/10/14)--Christine Henzig, Wisconsin Credit Union League director of communications, explained why credit unions are the financial institution of choice for consumers in a recent interview on WIBA-AM 1310's "Ask the Experts" program.
The foundation of the credit union difference is a cooperative ownership structure, Henzig explained. "Unlike banks that are owned by shareholders--a small group of shareholders that are in it to earn profits--credit unions are owned by the depositors," Henzig said. "As a credit union member...you are the owner."
Because of that structure, any profits beyond required reserves, go back to members in the form of better pricing on financial services. "That's a great deal for consumers," she said.
Henzig said there's a common misperception that credit unions are hard to join. Although credit unions began with a common membership bond as a form of collateral protection, today they offer much broader terms of membership. "There are some restrictions as to which credit union you can join, but there's always going to be a credit union you can join," Henzig said.
She suggested consumers log on to aSmarterChoice.org to find a credit union that fits their needs. aSmarterChoice is the consumer website created by the Credit Union Natoinal Association and its affiliated state credit union associations., such as WCUL.
Credit unions offer typically the same services that banks do--checking, saving, auto loans, mortgages, small business loans, student loans and investment products---in addition to 30,000 no-fee ATMs through CO-OP ATM Network.
The credit union system is built on collaboration, Henzig said, adding,"Other financial institutions don't collaborate the way credit unions do. Because our depositors own us we want to do them a good turn. If we don't have the service at one credit union, we'll send them to another credit union, because we know they will get good service."
Wisconsin credit unions members saved $100 million in fees and better rates over banks in 2013, including $57 million in lower loan rates, and $24 million in lower and fewer fees.
"That's $100 to $200 a household," Henzig said. "That's pretty significant."
About 40% of Wisconsin residents--2.4 million consumers--are credit union members, Henzig said. In 2013, nine in 10 Wisconsin credit unions provided free checking, offered loans of $1,000 or less, and adjusted loan terms to help members facing financial hardship due to unemployment, furloughs or temporary job loss.
To listen to the entire interview, use the link.