Big Banks and Credit Unions. What’s the best for you?

Whether your selling mortgage notes ( or looking to obtain regular conventional loans, big Banks have taken a dive in public opinion since the financial woes of recent years. Who can forget the public ire that monthly debit card fees raised in the general populace? In the aftermath, some two million folks jumped ship and joined the credit unions, raising the industry above the trillion dollar threshold. But we’re a couple of years removed from those exciting days. We’ve haven’t worn our “I am the 99%” t-shirts in awhile, and are starting to wonder, “Is the Credit Union really the way to go?” Of course, the answer depends on you, dear customer, and your needs. But we’ll walk you through some of the considerations below.


LOCATION AND HOURS: This one is interesting. On the one hand, major banks have branches everywhere you look. Credit Unions serve local customers, so if you are outside of, say, your town, you may not be able to so much as find an ATM. He’s where the crafty CUs make things interesting. It has become industry practice to refund your ATM fees….for any ATM you use! Hold on. This refund is usually capped by the month, so there are limits to this feature. So what matters most to you, available branches or free ATMs?


FEES: Big banks have looked pretty bad in recent years for being especially fee-happy and credit unions have happily lapped up their offended customers. We, here at Guarantor can only generalize here, because every bank has different policies, but it is not uncommon for the majors to charge usurious annual checking account fees, hefty overdraft penalties, loans from a credit union, and irritating ATM charges. Credit Unions offer none or reduced versions of these. But take care. Some of the majors are only marginally more expensive that CUs, if at all. Just because a bank is a credit union doesn’t mean it is going to be an amazing deal regarding fees. Look before you leap.


CUSTOMER SERVICE: This might not play out how you expect. Of course, smaller bank, better service, right? Not necessarily. As demand for credit unions has swollen, staffing and time has been spread equally thin. Longtime customers report a drop in satisfaction with customer service in recent years. Big banks often have highly trained and helpful staff, as well as a bevy of electronic tools to make your financial life easier and more sophisticated. But from behind, credit unions are catching up technologically. It’s really a tossup. You’ll be better to check your local options and decide which is right for you.


And really, that last sentence goes for this whole project. Look around at the banks around you and the perks and policies they bring to the table. Then decide if switching banks in Canada, or wherever it is you live, is the right thing for you. But if the grass really does seem greener on the other side, we urge you to make the switch.