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Credit Union Day: Personal Touch to Finances

About 3.6 million Washingtonians have their money in a local credit union. (TBIT/Pixabay)
About 3.6 million Washingtonians have their money in a local credit union. (TBIT/Pixabay)
October 19, 2017

SHELTON, Wash. – Credit unions in Washington state and around the world are celebrating International Credit Union Day Thursday.

These banking alternatives are growing in popularity in the Evergreen State, with half of Washington residents now members of one of 90 local credit unions.

Many celebrated the lead-up to Credit Union Day with member appreciation week promotions.

Jim Morrell heads Peninsula Credit Union, which serves people on the Olympic Peninsula. He says as larger institutions such as Wells Fargo continue to face turmoil, credit unions have reminded customers they are not-for-profit, member-owned cooperatives.

"There's definitely been a consumer sentiment to want to have more input to their personal finances, and to the relationships that they have with the financial institution that they choose to do business with," he states.

Peninsula has nearly 20,000 members.

Morrell says credit unions still face the misconception that members' money won't be as easily accessible as it is at other institutions. But he notes that most credit unions are part of a network of surcharge-free ATMs around the country.

Because of their structure, Morrell says credit unions also tend to be more community-focused than other financial organizations.

For instance, he says Peninsula offers financial literacy classes at local schools and community centers. It also offers help inside its credit union locations.

"Eighty-percent of our staff here at Peninsula Credit Union are certified community financial counselors,” he points out. “So, they have a tool kit that they can help people with those budgets, help them improve and repair their credit scores, help them avoid predatory lending, or just simply learn what the process is to go out and buy a car."

Because 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 - WA