6 Reasons to Visit Your Credit Union on October 20

Since 1948, International Credit Union Day has been celebrated on the third Thursday of October. This October 20th, 2016, more than 217 million credit union members around the world are joining in the celebration.

About half of all credit union members are Americans (108.1 million!), but if you're not one of them, this Oct. 20th is a great opportunity to visit a local credit union, shop around for financial services, and find out whether or not you can get a better deal at a credit union.

Key Differences Between a Bank and a Credit Union

Only 36% of people surveyed by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) were aware that credit unions are not-for-profit financial institutions. This is just one of the many differences between a traditional bank and your local credit union.

1. Credit Unions Have Members

You're not a client; you're a member or owner of the credit union. You're required to make a deposit in a savings account (often from $25 to $100) that grants you a share of the credit union.

2. You Must Be Eligible for Membership

Typical fields of membership include employee groups, associations, religious or fraternal affiliations, and residential areas.

3. You Can Vote on Key Issues

Including electing unpaid officers and directors for the credit union to establish operating policies and other key issues. Each member has one equal vote, no matter how small his or her deposit.

4. Deposits Are Insured by the NCUA or State or Private Insurance

While qualifying deposits in banks are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), deposits in federally chartered credit unions and those with headquarters in Arkansas, Delaware, South Dakota, Wyoming, or the District of Columbia are insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). Each individual account, joint account, trust account, retirement account, and business account at any federal credit union is insured for up to $250,000. If you have a savings account, a trust account, and a Roth IRA at a federal credit union, you're covered for up to total of $750,000. State chartered credit unions and those with headquarters in states other than the ones listed earlier may be covered by either state or private insurance.

5. Credit Unions Collaborate With Each Other

Many credit unions offer shared branching that allows you to make deposits and withdrawals at locations other than that of your own credit union. With nearly 30,000 ATMs and more than 5,000 shared branches, credit union members have more direct, surcharge-free access to their money than most traditional bank customers do.

Why It Pays to Take Part in Credit Union Day

In a nutshell: higher savings rates for your deposits and lower costs for your loans.

Let's compare some financial products from credit unions with those from banks, as of June 2016:

  • Credit unions had a national average rate of 4.40% for five-year home equity loans, while banks had a 4.97% average rate.
  • A 15-year fixed-rate mortgage would have only cost an average 3.06% per year at credit unions and an average 3.10% at banks.
  • A classic credit card would have only charged you an average 11.56% at credit unions and an average 12.66% at banks.
  • A $10,000 five-year CD yielded a national average 1.51% at credit unions and 1.22% at banks.
  • A 48-month new car loan charged a national average 2.61% at credit unions and 4.58% at banks.
  • A $2,500 money market account paid a national average 0.17% at credit unions and 0.12% at banks.

Year after year credit unions demonstrate that they are working hard to get you the best bang for your buck. (See also: 9 Good Reasons to Choose a Credit Union Instead of a Bank)

What Can You Expect on International Credit Union Day

Several credit unions around the country will provide special offers and freebies to their current and new members.

1. Even Lower Fees

CUNA advises credit unions to offer loans or new share draft accounts for the same fees that credit unions charged the year they opened.

2. Free Money or Freebies to Open a New Account

The Eagle Community Credit Union in California is offering a $25 deposit and a lunch tote to new account holders from October 1 until October 31, 2016. The Meridian Trust Federal Credit Union in Cheyenne, Wyoming is offering a $50 Visa gift card to those opening a new checking account.

3. Chance to Win a Discount Off Your Qualifying Rate for a New Loan

The University of Hawaii Credit Union is offering on October 21 and 22, 2016 the chance to pull a rate as low as 1.49% APR or up to 0.75% off your qualifying rate. "Checking in" at the event with your Yelp app will get you 0.25% off your qualifying rate.

4. Free Gas Cards

Other credit unions may offer you incentives to receive free gas cards when you bring a completed certificate to a participating car dealership. If you get a new-car loan with the credit union at a qualifying dealer, the gas card can be of higher value.

5. Chance to Win Free Money

Last but not least, some credit unions may just be handing out money. In 2014, the Royal Credit Union in Eau Claire, Wisconsin handed out cups filled with $2 bills and fliers about the credit union to 500 students. All cups were entered into a drawing for five real $2 bills.

6. Opportunity to Fundraise for Your Community

The River Cities Community Credit Union in Atchison, Kansas hosts every year a hot dog meal fundraiser to donate to the Atchison County Food Pantry. Several credit unions host fundraisers to contribute to the local community.

The Bottom Line: Save the Date!

From a better saving rate for your deposits to a competitive new car loan to a freebie to boost your emergency fund, there is a lot you can gain from International Credit Union Day. As of December 2015, there 6,259 credit unions in the U.S. This Thursday October 20, 2016 is a great time to find out what you've been missing at your local credit union. Some special deals may only be available on that day or for a very limited time so plan ahead and use the NCUA's credit union locator to find the ones nearest you.

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