Callahan & Associates' Alexandra Gekas has decided on the important criteria for her credit union. Now she compares several cooperatives to help her determine which one she’ll join.
In Part 1 of my search for the perfect primary financial institution, I landed on the five criteria that were most important for me in choosing my credit union: location, free checking, online banking, good credit card rates, and auto loans. Now that I have decided what I want, I need to find it.
With an Internet search, I found several credit unions near my house and work in the Washington D.C. area that I was eligible for and that offered most of the benefits that I wanted. These were the five:
1) HEW Federal Credit Union (VA, $149.6M)
2) Lafayette Federal Credit Union (MD, $350.6M)
3) MCT Federal Credit Union (MD, $402.2M)
4) Signal Financial Federal Credit Union (MD, $299.5M)
5) Department Of Commerce Federal Credit Union (DC, $247.6M)
To narrow it down further, I visited these credit unions’ websites and Facebook pages. I was drawn to the websites that were professional and easy to use and to the Facebook pages where credit unions were connecting with tips and fun, interactive contests. I know that I will be using the online banking channel and I want to feel like my account is safe, and that the technology is up-to-date.
For example, HEW Federal’s website had a spotlight on current promotions so I could easily see what they’re offering members. Signal Financial’s site has three icons for auto lending, mortgage lending, and a student center that caught my attention and got me clicking through. Signal Financial also has a “Forms & Applications” button on the homepage with the options to join the credit union, apply for a loan, and do a balance transfer. Being able to do all that online is a major plus because it’s much more convenient.
I also visited a credit card comparison website, Creditcardconnection.org, where I learned that both MCT and Lafayette were on the “Dean’s List,” which means that they have no balance transfer fees, no penalty pricing, no annual fees, APRs less than 18%, and late fees less than $25. The Department of Commerce also had a solid credit card program, offering four of those five benefits.
My mother, a member of MCT Federal Credit Union, has highly recommended MCT because she’s been so pleased with their services. A referral like that is hard to ignore. One thing that’s keeping me from joining is the fact that I physically have to go there to sign on. MCT has only three branches in Maryland and I work during normal business hours in Washington D.C. Plus, I don’t own a car.
Now I’m wondering whether I should go with my mother’s referral or choose one I can easily join online. Among my remaining options, all of them have strong online channels, but should I narrow down based on who has the stronger credit card program and shared branching?
I thought this decision was going to be easy. Clearly, I was wrong.
Read The Series
The Search For The Perfect PFI (part 1)
The Search For The Perfect PFI (part 2)
The Search For The Perfect PFI (part 3)