Credit unions promote accessibility, breadth of services

By: Eric Czarnik | C&G Newspapers | Published October 2, 2019

 Christian Financial Credit Union recently opened a  new headquarters at the corner of Van Dyke Avenue and  15 Mile Road in Sterling Heights.

Christian Financial Credit Union recently opened a new headquarters at the corner of Van Dyke Avenue and 15 Mile Road in Sterling Heights.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 CFCU Chief Strategy Officer Lauren Fogarty stands  in front of her credit union’s sign.

CFCU Chief Strategy Officer Lauren Fogarty stands in front of her credit union’s sign.

Photo by Deb Jacques

METRO DETROIT — As a local alternative to big banks, some credit unions are seeing growth as the word gets out about their expanding breadth of services. Just ask Rebekah Monroe.

Monroe, the director of marketing and product management for Christian Financial Credit Union,  said the CFCU staff just moved its offices in September to a new 40,000-square-foot headquarters at the corner of Van Dyke Avenue and 15 Mile Road in Sterling Heights.

“Like a lot of credit unions in the area, we are growing as well, and we are very excited to be in our new headquarters,” she said. “It really gives us a lot of room to be able to collaborate and meet.”

The 2019 International Credit Union Week will be observed Oct. 13-19, with International Credit Union Day being Oct. 17. It’s a time when many credit unions promote and celebrate what they do for their communities.

This year, the week’s theme is “Local Service. Global Reach.” The week is promoted by the Credit Union National Association and the World Council of Credit Unions.

Some local credit unions, like CFCU, say their reach and size have grown over the years. Monroe said that in 1970, the credit union only had about $20 million in assets. Today, it has more than $400 million.

She said CFCU has been about “people helping people” since day one.

“Credit unions, overall, I feel, are very people-focused because of our structure,” she said. “Because we’re member-owned, we can offer better loan rates and better savings rates to members.”

Monroe said CFCU is open to anyone who lives, works, attends school or worships in Oakland, Macomb, Wayne or St. Clair counties. To join, a $5 deposit grants membership, along with a $10 fee for new members.

Over at Credit Union ONE, John Kozich, the vice president of community relations, discussed the increased accessibility of credit unions.

He said that decades ago, many credit unions were limited to a particular profession or to employees of a particular company. But nowadays, it’s more common for credit unions to be open to the broader public. Credit unions are member-owned and are not for profit, according to the Michigan Credit Union League.

Kozich said Credit Union ONE is 81 years old and is a full-service financial institution, with about $1.5 billion in assets and around 120,000 members. He said membership is open to people who live, work, attend school or worship in Michigan.

New members join with a one-time membership share, gaining access to services such as mortgages, equity loans, car loans, savings accounts and even financial planning, he said.

“You normally will find that credit unions will pay a little better rate of interest on savings products, and also you will find a lesser rate of interest on lending products,” he said. “There’s usually a full range of all saving and lending-type products available.”

Paula Rose, the vice president of marketing at FreeStar Financial Credit Union, said another lesser-known fact about credit unions is that, akin to banks and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., a government agency called the National Credit Union Administration insures credit union member accounts. Many credit unions have mobile apps that allow users to make transactions and check their accounts, she said.

Rose said FreeStar is part of a credit union ATM network that has 1,700 machines in Michigan and around 30,000 across the nation and the world. The ATMs can be seen at many 7-Eleven, Costco and Walgreens stores.

Find out more about Christian Financial Credit Union by visiting www.christianfinancialcu.com. For more information about Credit Union ONE, visit www.cuone.org. Learn more about FreeStar Financial Credit Union by visiting www.freestarfinancial.com.