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Eroding Confidence in Banks Draws Idahoans to Credit Unions

During the financial crisis, an Idaho credit union created a second-chance mortgage program to help out customers. (Investment Zen/Flickr)
During the financial crisis, an Idaho credit union created a second-chance mortgage program to help out customers. (Investment Zen/Flickr)
January 25, 2017

BOISE, Idaho – As confidence in big banks erodes, Idahoans are turning to credit unions to keep their money safe. More than 740,000 - or about 45 percent - of Gem State residents now are members of credit unions.

From 2006 to 2016, a Gallup poll shows trust in banks declined by 22 percent.

And unlike many big banks, Connie Miller, CEO of the Boise-headquartered Icon Credit Union, says credit unions came up with creative solutions to help families through the financial crisis in 2008.

"For example, we created some unique programs, such as a second-chance mortgage program for people who didn't qualify conventionally but have a lot of great means to be able to pay that loan back," she said. "They just had something unfortunate happen, whether it's a drop in their housing or whatever."

Miller says her credit union loaned roughly $12 million during the second-chance mortgage program and does not have a single delinquency.

Miller says financial education is a bedrock of credit unions as well, and is especially important for millennials, who are not as well off as their parents financially and may need guidance when it comes to spending.

However, she says misconceptions still exist around credit unions and the accessibility of ATMs, remote deposits and other technology.

"All those things on the technology side, sometimes that's a question," she added. "Do you have the things that the larger banks can do? And I would put ours up against anyone as well."

She adds there's confusion about the structure of these institutions, which are membership-owned cooperatives, and says anyone is allowed to join their local credit union.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID