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Credit Unions Celebrate, Continue to Grow in Idaho

The theme for this year's International Credit Union Day is "Dreams thrive here." (Northwest Credit Union Association)
The theme for this year's International Credit Union Day is "Dreams thrive here." (Northwest Credit Union Association)
October 19, 2017

NAMPA, Idaho -- Credit unions in Idaho and around the world are celebrating International Credit Union Day today. These banking alternatives are growing in popularity in the Gem State, with half of Idahoans now members of one of 28 local credit unions.

Many celebrated the lead-up to Credit Union Day with member appreciation week promotions. Nick Fugal is chief financial officer of Clarity Credit Union in Nampa, which is holding a scavenger hunt to observe the week. He said the structure of credit unions - as not-for-profit, member-owned cooperatives - allows them to better serve people.

"So it's not based on shareholders like a Wells Fargo or Bank of America where you buy shares in the equity stocks and you become an owner and get a vote,” Fugal said. "This way, if you have an account here, you get a vote in the board of directors. And because of that, the people who govern the credit union are focused on returns for the members."

Clarity has nearly 15,000 members. There are more than 230 million credit union members worldwide. The theme for this year's Credit Union Day is "Dreams thrive here."

Because of their structure, Fugal said credit unions also tend to be more community-focused than other financial organizations. He said they also can help people who are in financial distress, and not write someone off because of their credit score or because they're considered "risky."

"We're looking at it, saying, 'Hey, we're a community. We want to help our community. We need to make our community better not only physically but economically,’” he said. "So, we're going to look at the member, look at their story, find out what it is that they really need and do everything we can to help them."

Since credit unions don't have to pay shareholders, they are often able to offer lower fees on their services than traditional lenders.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID