5 Question Friday With Jamie Chase from Credit Union Strategic Planning

I first met Jamie Chase many years ago. There are people you meet and you forget about them. If life were a movie, they’d be an extra. Jamie Chase could never be that. She’s smart, outspoken and willing to back up what she thinks with action. She’s exactly the sort of person I want participating in 5 Question Friday and amazingly enough, she took the time to indulge me.

With all the talk about corporate greed and big banks, I can think of no better time to start talking about credit unions. And there’s really no one better to do that than Jamie Chase. Here she is.

1. For those who don’t know, what are the major differences between a bank and a credit union?

There are two major differences between a credit union and a bank:

    1. Credit unions are not-for-profit service organizations. They exist to provide a community service. Banks are profit driven companies. In this environment banks are profit maximizing. Banks make choices to make the most profit possible for their business. Credit union make choices to give the best service possible.
    2. Credit unions are member-owned cooperatives, like the Tacoma Food Co-op, REI, USAA, and PCC. The member-owners elect volunteers to represent them, to protect them. As a result, the volunteer board of directors make sure the credit union never makes choices like Bank of America did this week to charge $9 a month to use a branch and $5 a month to use a debit card. This is one reason, beyond being not-for-profit, why credit unions do not have sky-high fees on credit cards and didn’t trick people into buying houses they couldn’t afford.

2. BofA and Citibank have both announced monthly fees for use of debit cards resulting in many people considering credit unions instead. What should a prospective customer look for in a credit union?

Given that all credit unions are not-for-profit. They are all a better choice than banks. When a person switches, they should look for a credit union that is located close to their home or work. I also recommend a credit union that is part of the shared branching network. With shared branching, credit unions from all over the country share facilities to give members thousands of convenient locations to perform transactions just as if they were in their home credit union. Imagine Bank of America sharing their branches with Key Bank, hilarious. Yes, credit unions really do this. Why? Because their mission is service. They work together, cooperate, instead of competing.

3. What is CU  Strategic Planning?

It is a small business located in Tacoma, WA that invents poverty reduction programs deployed through not-for-profit credit unions that serve distressed communities across the United States. We are the number one writer of Department of Treasury, Community Development Financial Institution grants for credit unions. As a result, every year we assist credit unions with obtaining millions of dollars in grants so that they can deploy loans to small businesses to create jobs, moderate and low income people to purchase or maintain affordable housing and for unsecured alternatives to payday loans that move people from debt to asset building.

4. For Tacomans, what credit union(s) would you recommend?

My top recommendation is BECU. It has the best rates and along with Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union (SMCU) is the most philosophical for consumers that love the cooperative principles.

Harborstone offers the best small business services. TAPCO has the friendliest head teller, Cindy, but they are not part of the shared banking network. Heather at Sound Credit Union’s 38th Street and Pacific Ave. location is one of the best tellers in the state.

Express Credit Union and TULIP Cooperative Credit Union serve low income consumers with poor credit scores. If your friends can’t open an account at a mainstream credit union, these credit unions have a special mission to help out.

5. With all of the recent bank consolidations, what do you think the future holds for credit unions?

Credit unions are the solution, and that will become more clear to people. Right now, we can all move our car loans and credit card balances to credit unions from the higher interest charging banks. Why would you not do this immediately. Run, don’t walk.  The mission of credit unions is, “People helping people to help themselves.” That is exactly what people need. I also see credit unions providing financial education and helping consumers to improve their credit. The new answer for credit unions that may have declined a loan to a consumer in the past will not be, “No, we can’t lend to you. “ It will become, “We can’t give you a loan right now, but if you take this class your credit score will improve and we will give you a loan in two months.” That is very powerful. They do this because they exist only to serve.

I’d like to thank Jamie for taking the time to participate in 5 Question Friday. Feel free to comment below. Got comments you just want to send to me? Got someone in mind for a 5 Question Friday? Email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com

–          Jack Cameron

As an added bonus, Jamie included the following piece below for those of you interested in leaving your big bank for a local credit union. Enjoy:

How to move your money from a profit-maximizing bank to a not-for-profit credit union:

  1. Withdraw your money. Close your corporate bank account.
  2. Use theGo to http://www.findacreditunion.com/ to find a not-for-profit credit union you are eligible to join.
  3. Joining the credit union is just like opening an account at a bank, only when you “join” you become an owner/member of the cooperative. Yes, credit unions are cooperative and you are the owner, in addition to being not-for-profit. This is the big ideological difference between the creation, management and motives of credit unions and banks.

The most important step in the switch from a bank to a CU:

  1. Ask the credit union to transfer your car loan, credit card balances and mortgage from your various banks into the credit union.
    1. You will save hundreds of dollars and pay off the loans faster! Credit union not-for-profit rates are much lower than profit-maximizing banks.
    2. This is how you really Occupy from Home. Stop the banks from making money off of YOU! They make their money from the interest you pay on your loans, far more profit than from your debit card fees.

And finally:

  1. Set up online banking, direct deposit and automatic payments that were previously connected to your account at the evil bank.

Your new credit union will help you with all of this. Why? Because you will be an owner, and credit union’s exist to serve. In fact the credit union mantra is:

“People helping People to Help Themselves.”

By: Jamie Chase, Instigator of Goodness, and inventor of poverty reduction programs deployed through credit unions across the nation serving distressed communities and underserved populations that are unprofitable to corporate banks.

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