This year’s annual International Credit Union (ICU) Day on October 19 takes place under the theme “Dreams Thrive Here” – celebrating the spirit of the global credit union. The World Council of Credit Unions believes ICU is ‘the opportunity to encourage credit union members to get engaged, share their life experiences and celebrate how credit unions have made an impact on their life choices’. ICU Day festivities are ongoing worldwide and aim to generate awareness in an effort to boost membership to credit unions in order to achieve the World Council’s Vision goal of ‘adding 50 million new members by the year 2020’.
With large banks establishing a reputable name all over the world, it would be easy to be more inclined to conduct financial business there. But the lure of a household name shouldn’t be the only deciding factor when it comes to the ever important investment of a person’s money. Credit unions are just as important, and perhaps even more beneficial if you really understand all the perks offered. Though credit unions and banks offer many of the same services – checking accounts, savings accounts and the acquisition of loans – some characteristics of small credit unions override those of large banks.
Credit unions are non-profit organisations and, because of this, are able to provide higher interest rates on savings and lower interest rates on loans, which makes for wiser banking. The need for personal loans to cover a multitude of situations would be better acquired at a credit union where interest percentages are usually lower than traditional banks. With year-round promotions on loans and the added option to refinance, using a credit union over a bank as your loan institution creates less financial burden.
All credit unions are, in essence, owned by the members of the community. Your first deposit in any credit union automatically makes you a member and gives you an input as to how business is conducted. Annual General Meetings allow for the generation of ideas from the community and the purchasing of shares in the institution. In Saint Lucia many credit unions cater to a special sector of the citizenry, be it teachers, farmers or civil servants.
Credit unions are reputable for wonderful customer service. From experience, my local credit union is extremely community-oriented: a place where your teller and even the doorman know you by name. In keeping with community spirit, credit unions help with educational costs through the provision of scholarships to children of members. In September the St Lucia Workers’ Credit Union (SLWCU) awarded scholarships and bursaries to top Common Entrance performers who were children of the members of the credit union. The Civil Service Credit Union also awarded scholarships to seven more students during their two-year tenure at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College.
If you want to enjoy the same service that a large
bank would provide you,
while paying out lower interest rates on loans and receiving higher interest rates on your savings, a credit union is definitely the place for you. If that isn’t enough, the provision of insurance, indemnity plans and the high value to which your opinions on the institution are held, make for good reasons to join a credit union. Your investment is valuable to both yourself and the community.