How to Find a Credit Union

By: Nathan Dawson

If you've been feeling like small potatoes at your bank lately, it's probably time to start looking at a credit union instead.

Of course, you won't find a credit union on every corner, or ATMs at every convenient location that you require. But if you compare convenience with better rates, service and options, you'll quickly realize a credit union is the best way to go.

With a mere $5 (or maybe a bit more) deposited into a credit union account, you've become a shareholder, instead of just a customer like at a bank.

Originally when credit unions first started popping up, the shareholders usually had something in common, like their church, union, workplace or employer. But now, whatever holds together a credit union can be something less defined, a geographic region or social ties, for instance.

Its easy enough to find a credit union, if you are willing to look. Most dont advertise too much (although that seems to be changing a bit of late in some areas). But looking around can pay off in spades. Here are some ideas on how to locate one:

Look around your workplace there may already be a credit union catering to your every need. Or, if you are a professional, ask around to see if there is a credit union that has been created just for those in your profession, union or trade.

Try calling the National Credit Union Administration at (703) 518-6330. They can look up credit unions in your area that you might be able to join.

If you attend religious services, ask the administrative staff if there is a credit union that is affiliated with your church.

Contact your local chamber of commerce, or any clubs that you belong to. You never know who may have a credit union already organized that fits your interests.

Talk to friends, family or coworkers, and ask them about any credit unions they have heard about, or have used themselves.

Once you've shopped around a bit, you probably have come up with a couple of credit unions to choose from. But how do you decide which credit union is the best for you?

It's quite easy, really. All you have to do is compare them all by convenience, rates, products and services. Make a graph if you need to, so that you can easily and clearly see the advantages and disadvantages of each one.

Start with convenience. Are any of the credit union locations close to your home? Work? On the way? Are there ATMs within walking distance? What are their hours of operation?

Now look at what products and services you use on a regular basis. Make a note of all of the ones you require, and just think are cool, but dont really need. Now compare those plans, programs and prices. What does it cost to do business at each credit union? What are the monthly and individual fees? Are there any up and coming costs that you anticipate, like a car loan, mortgage or general loan? If so, you may want to add these items to your comparison chart as well.

And then, there is service. There is really no way to gauge service than by either contacting the credit union, or walking in the door.

So go take a peek at the top contenders on your list. You may become a shareholder faster than you thought.

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