Wildly fluctuating fuel costs can make it challenging for consumers to budget for their winter utility bills. Some credit unions, particularly those in the Northeast, offer special loans to help members cover energy costs.
A survey by the Maine Credit Union League (MCUL) found that nearly 75% of the state’s credit unions offer special low- or no-interest energy loans, with an average interest rate of 3.99%, CUNA’s News Now reports.
“It’s great to see Maine credit unions again putting the philosophy of ‘people helping people’ to work for Maine consumers,” says John Murphy, MCUL president.
Although final figures for this winter aren’t yet available, Maine credit unions project to distribute nearly 850 loans at a total value of $4 million, according to MCUL.
Credit unions typically pay fuel loans directly to the fuel provider or reimburse members’ utility bills. Casco Federal Credit Union in Gorham, Maine, offers loans for heating fuel, firewood, or wood pellets in bulk, or to install a wood, gas, or pellet stove.
Because fuel companies typically don’t take credit cards, consumers must be ready with check or cash in hand when deliveries are made, says Cathy Harrington, chief lending officer for Quincy (Mass.) Credit Union.
The credit union offers a $2,000 line of credit with a 5% interest rate that’s open between Oct. 15 and April 15. Members make automatic repayments during the other six months of the year.
The line of credit provides peace of mind to members. “They’re not in a panic when their fuel is running low and they have to fill their tank,” Harrington says.