New Member On Board (part 1)

A new-to-the-area Millennial asks for help in evaluating which potential credit union would be the best fit for her membership.

Yun Ma

By Yun Ma


Since my teens, I’ve never given much thought to where I did my banking, switching from one business to another out of convenience. At 18, I opened an account with Citibank because it was located on my University of Chicago college campus. Its doubling of monthly fees a few years after graduation, however, caused me to balk.

Subsequently, I switched to JPMorgan Chase in 2010. At the time I was still living in Chicago, where Chase branches are easily found throughout the city, seemingly on every block, with blue ATMs tucked inside every other Walgreen’s. The fact Chase mailed me a $100 bonus offer for opening a checking account didn’t hurt either. The gimmick appealed to my short-term thinking at the time — as it likely did for many of my peers in our 20s.

Now I’m in Washington, DC. When I moved here three months ago I was surprised to find there are no local Chase locations. I’ve been depositing my paychecks at Chase locations in New York when I’m in town visiting friends. Admittedly, this is not the most practical solution.

Which means, of course, I need to find a new financial institution. 

I’m in my late 20s, newly settled, and choosing my next financial institution more carefully. I’ve got my eye on credit unions. I like their cooperative ethics, nonprofit status, and generally better interest rates. Before I commit to a specific credit union, however, I’m doing my research.

 As a potential credit union member, here are a few traits about me: I’m technically part of the Millennial generation. I tend to do most of my banking online, often late at night, from the convenience of my home laptop.  A strong web infrastructure and 24-hour banking access are important to me. I don’t have a smartphone, I’m trying to curb an email addiction, so mobile banking is not an issue. I do more supplemental banking at ATMs rather than at branch locations, so although I’m not concerned by the number of branches, I want an organization that belongs to an ATM network that allows me to withdraw cash without fees.

Additionally, I rely more on debit or checking cards than on credit cards. I’m in the lucky position of being debt-free — I somehow avoided credit cards in my early 20s and have paid off my student loans. Over the course of a few years I’ve accumulated a sum of savings; however, I don’t anticipate any upcoming major purchases, so I don’t need to access it at the moment. Any credit union that can offer savings options with strong interest rates, whether in the form of CDs or savings accounts, would be highly attractive. Lastly, an auto loan might well be something I’ll be worrying about, even if not in the immediate future, so the ideal credit union would offer competitive rates.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be talking to friends and colleagues about credit union options. I’m also asking readers for advice. Is there anything I haven’t considered that I should keep in mind? Do you have suggestions for credit unions I should check out?

I welcome any feedback.


Dec. 13, 2012



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