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Credit unions have surpassed BofA in Seattle
December 11, 2012 8:06 AM   Subscribe


 
I applaud this, but it also shows the limits of "voting with your dollar." If this is just now happening in Seattle, what's the hope of making a serious dent in the banks' marketshare nationwide? Yes, move your money to a CU, but at the same time, insisting on tighter regulation on banks.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:14 AM on December 11, 2012


Superficially: this is a good thing, because banks (typically) suck and credit unions (typically) don't.

But, important to note that switching your checking account from BofA to a Credit Union, even in volume, does largely nothing. That's because daily banking doesn't have much to do with a bank's bottom line. If people in volume would move, say, all their mortgage debt over to Credit Unions, that would be more important. But I don't think that's what is happening.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:17 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hey that's great but I think credit unions could do even better with some new branding.

"Credit union" sounds like dusty window blinds, faux wood counters, polyester cardigans, and a shortage of slick online banking tools.

But what are they really?

They're Artisanal Banks. Hand-crafted car loans, the teller you know, passbook savings*, the human touch in place of the touchscreen.


----------------
*Moleskin?
posted by notyou at 8:26 AM on December 11, 2012 [31 favorites]


If people in volume would move, say, all their mortgage debt over to Credit Unions, that would be more important.

Wouldn't that be somewhat impractical, considering the relatively small size of most credit unions? I mean, would the average local credit union be able to handle the same amount of mortgages that a local branch of a large nationwide bank could?
posted by elizardbits at 8:27 AM on December 11, 2012


A little misleading ... the credit union industry overall has a larger market share than any one individual bank.

Still it's AWESOME news, doubly awesome for me as I'm in the credit union business.
posted by headnsouth at 8:28 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's because daily banking doesn't have much to do with a bank's bottom line.

BofA rakes in tons on account fees that many credit unions do not charge. I think BofA and the like would be wise to have independent studies of what's happening in Seattle.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:28 AM on December 11, 2012


"Credit union" sounds like dusty window blinds, faux wood counters, polyester cardigans, and a shortage of slick online banking tools.

Eh, my little credit union had slick online banking tools in 1998 when the internet was still running around in diapers.
posted by mullingitover at 8:32 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


But what are they really? They're Artisanal Banks. Hand-crafted car loans, the teller you know, passbook savings*, the human touch in place of the touchscreen.

Oh goodness no. Credit union members want mobile banking and instant check deposits with their phone cameras just like everyone else does. If we dissed the touchscreen we'd lose every member under age 70.

Local, customized lending; profits rolled back into the community and lower rates/fewer fees; all the benefits of the big banks without having to just relax and it will hurt less. That's what the CU message needs to be.

Then there are CDFI-designated CUs, which have a more complicated message to send out: specialized programs for lower income members/members who need credit remediation ... but no, it doesn't mean wealthier members are subsidizing poor people, in fact the higher (but fair, not predatory) rates paid by higher credit risk borrowers make low rates possible for people with better credit. It's a fine line especially in these days of "cooperative" and "social responsibility" being both bad words and things people want for themselves.
posted by headnsouth at 8:43 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


BofA rakes in tons on account fees that many credit unions do not charge. I think BofA and the like would be wise to have independent studies of what's happening in Seattle.

While BofA may charge "tons of account fees" as an absolute number, they constitute a relatively minor source of revenue for the bank. Last year BofA's entire deposits business contributed something like 1/5 the net income of the card services business at less than half the ROI. Most of the big banks stay in the deposits business because it provides a relatively stable source of funding and liquidity.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:47 AM on December 11, 2012


Most of the big banks stay in the deposits business because it provides a relatively stable source of funding and liquidity.

...Thus, reducing the stable funding and liquidity could force them to make more careful choices about their investments. Deposits may not be the biggest contribution to the line item, but they are a nontrivial part of the pool of "real money" that's leveraged to engage in more profitable investments.
posted by verb at 8:53 AM on December 11, 2012


They're Artisanal Banks. Hand-crafted car loans, the teller you know, passbook savings*, the human touch in place of the touchscreen.

You say this ironically but this idea is probably exactly what's needed to get the message to the proper demographic. In point of fact, they ARE artisanal. They are also local. So they are like 'slow food'.

posted by spicynuts at 8:53 AM on December 11, 2012


"Credit union" already sounds like "artisanal banking" to me and it does it without once again calling "union" a bad word.

The problem is: There are no credit union branches physically near my house. We do 95% of our banking physically (most of that at the ATM for deposits and withdrawals).
posted by DU at 8:53 AM on December 11, 2012


Good.
posted by clarknova at 8:54 AM on December 11, 2012


"Hi there, I'm the Good."

"Well, I must tell you, I'm the Perfect."

"MY SWORN ENEMY!"

"YOU! I HAVE VOWED VENGEANCE UPON THEE, GOOD!"

*sound of swords drawn from scabbards*

"I swear to you, Perfect, I will be the one."

"No! It cannot be! It must be myself."

"Then you will have to go through me!"

"Then slay you I must!"
posted by dhartung at 8:59 AM on December 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


Unfortunately, my credit union (yes, I switched from a local bank after the local bank ended up simply brokering my mortgage from Wells Fargo) seems to be mostly a reseller of other financial services. I strongly get the impression that if I bought a mortgage (or any other loan through them), it'd just be sold off. If they aren't just acting as a broker in the first place.

I want to believe, and maybe, like transit, we can get there if we give them the benefit of the doubt and the extra half a point of loan interest, but metaphorically I keep discovering the Kirkland logo in the trash behind the artisanal bakery.
posted by straw at 9:09 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't that be somewhat impractical, considering the relatively small size of most credit unions? I mean, would the average local credit union be able to handle the same amount of mortgages that a local branch of a large nationwide bank could?

We had a mortgage with our local credit union. Then it got sold to ... I forget, but 2-3 other banks before it ended up at Chase. We did our re-fi with chase and I hope those fuckers die in a fire.

Anyway, point is, with mortgages and stuff - you might start with a CU, but who knows where it ends up.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:11 AM on December 11, 2012


Eh, my little credit union had slick online banking tools in 1998 when the internet was still running around in diapers.

Problem is, mine still has the online tools they had in 1998.
posted by madajb at 9:19 AM on December 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


I've walked into the local Credit union five times with the intention of opening an account. First, for my business, which took three visits, and twice to open a personal account. The hours were not conducive to my schedule, and, on the occasions I've not been successful, it has been because the individual authorized to help me open an account was not present or was in a meeting.

I've had an account with a big monster national bank that I hate for six years, and it has never taken me more than a single visit to accomplish my intended business.

I'm glad that there are good Credit Unions out there, and I wish I could join one of them, but for me, I don't trust the Credit Union around here to be there when I need them.
posted by gauche at 9:33 AM on December 11, 2012


Hey, this is me! I live in Seattle, and I closed all my BofA accounts a couple of years ago and now only work with credit unions. It's so nice to be doing business with people who aren't actively trying to screw me over at every turn. I sure hope the surge in people switching to credit unions somehow hurts the big banks, but not having to deal with assholes is its own reward.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:50 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


DU, I was concerned about ATM's as well before I switched, especially since the credit union I wanted to join had very few branches, and only one even close to where I live.

However, most Credit Unions participate in shared branch banking. That means you can go to just about ANY credit union, speak with a teller, deposit checks, etc.
Additionally, many 7-11's have a free ATM for Credit Union customers where you can both withdraw and deposit money.

As a result I've been to my actual credit union branch once in the past 4 months and haven't missed a beat.
posted by rouftop at 9:52 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


At the beginning of the year, we switched from accounts at Wells Fargo (mine) and BofA (his) to a joint account at BECU. Couldn't be happier. Interest (interest!!!) on checking and savings, free online bill pay, free money transfers, check-scanning ATMs that make my paycheck deposits available as soon as I complete the transaction. There was no hassle in switching; we went in and were out in perhaps 30 minutes, freshly-created debit cards in-hand.

Banks are for suckers.
posted by xedrik at 10:12 AM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Artisanal Banks

Hmmm. Give my hard-earned dollars to a neckbeard or slick bastard in a tie and suit? Hmm..

I gotta go with the neckbeard on this one.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:42 AM on December 11, 2012


^I agree. Switched to a credit union a while back after I realized my bank was giving me something like 0.0001% interest. Like they just wanted me to know they were aware of the concept.

Also, fees.

Banks vs. Credit Unions seems like a microcosm of the local vs. global issue. By and large, credit unions appear to be more user-friendly, but your mileage may vary, whereas your mileage with banks usually won't (for better or worse).
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 10:42 AM on December 11, 2012


I love credit unions! Sincerely and unironically. Mine cashes checks instantly, for example, in most cases, without waiting for it to clear. Banks? I don't think so. I could go on. They have only gotten better over time. Mine used to be for City Teachers only, now it's open to anyone. I don't know why you'd want to stick with a bank, although I have to admit that the majority of my money - my house - is owned by CitiMonster.
posted by kozad at 11:19 AM on December 11, 2012


I remember last year when Occupy Seattle was in full swing and people were switching to CUs in droves.

I was opening my first account in over 10 years and I tried BECU and there was a line out the door at their downtown Seattle branch, all from people wanting to join.

I was denied by BECU due to bad credit due to an outstanding medical bill and a total lack of credit history, but another local CU accepted me and overlooked that bill when I explained to them that it was a charge for an ER visit where I didn't even receive any services.

I love my CU. They make up for the lack of branches with free access to the CO-OP ATM network. My minimum balance is something like 50 cents. They helped reverse a charge where I got screwed over by my internet provider. And I earn more interest on my checking account than I would on a savings account with Chase or BoA.

In short: Go Seattle!
posted by loquacious at 11:20 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mine cashes checks instantly, for example, in most cases, without waiting for it to clear.

this does not seem like a policy that can last

i was gonna say "unsustainable" but that would've been a bit arch
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:48 AM on December 11, 2012


"BofA rakes in tons on account fees that many credit unions do not charge. I think BofA and the like would be wise to have independent studies of what's happening in Seattle."

i'm sure they already have, as they are attempting to fight the trend very directly, with ads tying their brand to local icon Dick's Drive In.

Should Dick's Dump Bank of America?

if you watch a seahawks broadcast, they've got their Dick's ads all over it, really pushing the "we're local" angle.
posted by striatic at 1:19 PM on December 11, 2012


If people in volume would move, say, all their mortgage debt over to Credit Unions, that would be more important.

When we bought a house last year, we talked to all of the credit unions in the local area that we qualified for (which was a surprisingly small fraction of the CUs that do business in the area). None of them would do a loan of the size we wanted (as an absolute dollar amount; the LTV was fairly low) with a rate that was anywhere near competitive with what we got from the bigger banks. I'm all for doing business with companies whose values I like, but we're talking about a very big difference in cost here. They have to be competitive if they want to win over my business.
posted by primethyme at 1:40 PM on December 11, 2012


loquacious : Who *is* your credit union? I've been turned down by BECU, too, but don't want to give up and stay at BoA.
posted by webmutant at 1:59 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


People in Washington are brilliant and I hope the other states are jealous.
posted by victory_laser at 3:24 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yay! I live in Seattle and I've banked with WSECU for over a decade, and they are also the lender for my mortgage. On the other hand, I also have a second savings account with ING Direct (now owned by Capital One) because their interest rates were so much higher.

WSECU does not sell their mortgages to other banks. They have no branches in my neighborhood, but both of the supermarkets closest to my house have credit union ATMs that I can use for free, and I've also made use of their shared branch arrangements with other credit unions.
If people in volume would move, say, all their mortgage debt over to Credit Unions, that would be more important.

Wouldn't that be somewhat impractical, considering the relatively small size of most credit unions?
Well, as their deposits grow then their lending should be able to grow proportionally...
posted by mbrubeck at 5:10 PM on December 11, 2012


Happy international year of co-operatives, Seattle!

Remember that at a co-op (or credit union) you don't just vote with your dollars, you also vote with your vote!

Moving the money is great, I hope lots of the members also go to the AGM and vote in the election or run for the board of the credit union and work to keep making them better.

If you want an awesome model of a credit union that does great stuff in their community, look to BC's VanCity, which is a major funder in our communities (and members each vote on which applicant gets the $1,000,000). They have their problems, but they are an activist credit union with major assets and clout, and that comes from the members who have taken charge and made it happen.
posted by chapps at 7:41 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


We had a mortgage with our local credit union. Then it got sold to ... I forget

Mortgage law needs to be restructured to recognize the homeowner as a major partner in such decisions. If the bank no longer has confidence in its ability to sustain the loan it contracted, that's a contract-breaker. The borrower should have a year or two to look for another lender. The original lender (having decided it wants out) should have no say in that transaction, and be required to pay any and all transfer fees.

Letting the banks decide all these things solely for their own benefit obviously results in enormous and unwarranted risk for homeowners. It doesn't have to be that way.
posted by Twang at 8:11 PM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


In all seriousness, what fees are people being charged by Evil Megacorp Amalgamated Banks™, Inc.? I'm with Chase and with the exception of one not-a-Chase ATM fee, my checking account has been free. All I have is a single checking account with two debit cards; no mortgage, credit card, or anything else. I totally get the idea of switching to make a difference in the grand scheme of things, so this is just to satisfy my curiosity. And I'm still a little bitter about BECU denying me an account. :(
posted by fireoyster at 10:44 PM on December 11, 2012


A friendly overview of the differences between banks and credit unions part one: structure, part two: location, and part three: giving back.

And this video by Opportunity Finance Network (which my CU participates in) illustrates how well-managed community-focused credit unions leverage limited resources close to home.
posted by headnsouth at 5:01 AM on December 12, 2012


NerdwWallet has a map of credit cards offered by credit unions (via metafilter)
posted by jeffburdges at 3:58 AM on January 6, 2013


We need a nationwide effort like Bank Transfer Day but longer term.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:19 AM on January 6, 2013


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