On Your Side: Credit Unions

By: Jeff Anderson Email
By: Jeff Anderson Email

News 12 at 6, January 6, 2009

AUGUSTA--With banks failing all over the place and the stock market on its own rocky path, you may be looking for some stability with your money and for some folks that stability is being found at their local credit union.

Some folks feel with the bigger banks that they're just another number. And with all the financial turmoil lately, there are some people who want a more hometown feel. Something some say they get at a credit union.

Kimberly Wilson is now a former big bank customer. She says it was an experience that was fairly impersonal.

"You can (get) lost in the crowd." she said.

So she decided to make a move. A move to a credit union.

"I went home and did some research and was impressed that they didn't get into the predatory lending." she said.

With all the big bank troubles in the news, to Kimberly, that equaled safety and peace of mind.

So, what are credit unions? They're usually locally run financial institutions that are owned by the people who bank with them. They are known as members. They often offer competitive deals on loans and interest rates.

According to the FDIC, 25 banks failed this year. Augusta Metro Federal Credit Union's Butch Holley says those numbers have helped his business grow by an estimated 74 percent.

"We've been able to capitalize on the growth aspect." Holley said.

Industry experts say not all credit union memberships have grown as much as Augusta Metro's, but the industry as a whole is pretty healthy.

Here's why those experts say it's a safe place to invest. Credit unions are not for profit and there are no share holders to answer to. That means the only people making decisions are the people who have their money invested, the members.

On the downside, there often aren't as many branches to do business at and many times, there aren't as many ATM's either. So convenience may be an issue for you.

But for Kimberly, it's a situation that works for her.

"I feel safer. I feel a sense of peace. " she said.

This is not to say no credit unions have failed because there absolutely have been a few fail, but your money is insured with them just as it is with a standard bank.

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