Once you've decided to join a credit union instead of a bank, your search isn't over. Next up is choosing a credit union that's right for you. From whether you're eligible to join to where the credit union's branches are located, there are several things to consider before you find the one that's right for you.
Are You Eligible to Join?
Once upon a time, credit unions had pretty strict rules about who was eligible to join and who wasn't. While you do still have to meet eligibility requirements before you open an account at one, many credit unions have become more flexible when it comes to who can join. For example, you might simply have to live within a certain area to join a local credit union.
Some do have tougher eligibility rules, though. In some cases, you might need to work for certain companies or have a particular profession. To find the credit union that best matches your eligibility, use the "find a credit union" tool at MyCreditUnion.gov.
What Are the Credit Union's Fees and Rates?
After you've found a credit union that you are eligible to join, take a closer look at its fees and the rates it offers. As US News and World Report notes, credit unions are known for offering better interest rates and for charging lower (or no) fees for certain services. But since each credit union is different, it helps to confirm that the one you are considering is actually going to give you the best deal. Ask what it costs to open an account and if you'll be charged a monthly fee or not.
Where Is the Credit Union Located?
One advantage that banks often have over credit unions is that they tend to be located in more places. You might stumble upon a small branch of a bank in a grocery store or find one of its ATMs at a gas station. Credit unions are usually smaller businesses and tend to have fewer branches than banks, but the scale tips in their favor when it comes to ATM memberships. Most credit unions are part of nationwide ATM networks, where you can use an ATM in that network for free, no matter where you are. Coosa Valley Credit Union is part of the SUM ATM network, whose transactions are surcharge-free.
Along with figuring out where your potential credit union is physically located and assessing its ATM network, it also helps to choose one that offers online banking services. The more you can do online or using your smartphone, the less need you'll have for actually visiting a location.
Technology and Other Services
These days, there's no excuse for not offering a wealth of online or e-banking services. The more e-services the credit union offers, the better. Look for one that lets you deposit checks with your mobile device, make payments online and keep track of the amount in your checking or savings account.
When choosing a credit union, you also want to consider the other financial services it offers. While you might simply need a savings or checking account now, there might come a time in your life when you are in the market for a home loan, car loan or personal loan. Compared to banks, credit unions typically offer lower rates on loan products, so it is worth your while to find an institution that offers a variety of loans, even if you don't need one right this instant.
If you are looking for a credit union with flexible eligibility requirements, low minimum balance requirements and few fees, consider Coosa Valley Credit Union. Once you join the credit union, you're always welcome as a member, whether you move or change jobs.