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(ARA) – Recent graduates should be proud of theiraccomplishment, but there is still a lot to learn – like how to getthe most from their money, how to establish credit and how toensure convenient, safe access to their savings and checkingaccounts. While today’s tough economic times can make setting upthese building blocks of personal finance even more worrisome,credit unions offer many solutions.

Virtually everyone in the U.S. can belong to a credit unionthrough either their employer or affiliation with a group like aplace of worship. A third option is many creditunions have “community” charters and serve a region defined bygeography rather than by association. Because they are cooperativeswhere each member is an owner, credit unions operate as nonprofitsand return earnings back their members in the form of better rateson savings and lower fees for services. That’s great for everyone,but credit unions have other benefits that are particularlyimportant to those just starting out.

Many young people have difficulty obtaining credit because theirincomes are low and they have little or no credit history. And thecurrent credit crunch has caused many banks to tighten theirlending standards. But because credit unions are chartered to servetheir members’ needs and are less likely to be forced by themarketplace to change their underwriting standards, they are makingloans others will not – and with comparatively lower rates andfees.

“Higher savings rates, lower fees and access to credit arebenefits everyone can appreciate, but younger tech-savvy people arealso interested in services like plentiful, no-fee ATMs, online andmobile banking, and image deposits. Credits unions offer thesetoo,” says Stan Hollen, president and CEO of CO-OP Financial Services, a providerof personal finance tools to credit unions, and itself owned by itsmembers. “Today’s credit unions offer their members, young and old,the latest financial technologies so they can access their accountsanywhere, anytime, nationwide.”

Credit unions are, by design, regional, but provide theirmembers nationwide services through CO-OP. Among the servicesoffered is CO-OPNetwork, the largest ATM network in the country with more than28,000 surcharge-free locations. That’s more than any bank. CO-OPmember credit unions also provide next-generation personal financetools like mobile banking that can interface with iPhones,Web-based deposits, tap-and-go payment processing and reloadableprepaid cards.

Some young people might lean toward choosing a bank over acredit union because they want their deposits insured, not knowingthat credit union member deposits are insured up to $250,000.Credit union-issued credit cards also tend not to have an annualfee.

“The increasing cost of gas, groceries and other expenses eataway at the starting salaries of recent graduates,” says Hollen.”These can be offset somewhat by choosing to make a credit uniontheir primary financial institution. Young people are looking forspeed, convenient financial transactions and quality. Today’scredit unions offer all of this, along with their well-known,hometown friendly service.”

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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