Monday, May 04, 2009

Credit Unions or bust

Last September I fulfilled a tentative plan by switching to a credit union. I promised to write about it. I tried writing about it. I didn't publish what I wrote because I was worried that I sounded preachy.

I think I got the sharing tone down this time around.

Michael and I often talked about changing banks, but procrastinated and said we'd do it once we were done with university (the same reasoning we followed regarding marriage). In the end, we were motivated to act after receiving poor service from our former bank, the Royal Bank of Canada. Michael had difficulty accessing money while we were traveling in Europe in August, and when RBC tried to fix the problem, it inadvertently caused several cheques, including a rent cheque, to bounce. This resulted in an eviction notice. Sure, the notice was a formality that was resolved when we returned, but it wasn't the welcome we were hoping for after a transatlantic flight.

In addition to those service quibbles, RBC is the only bank that doesn't offer complimentary online bill payments to the Victoria Car Share Co-op, which means co-op members who bank with RBC have to pay their monthly bills with cheques. So inefficient.

Aside from our RBC gripes, we were also encouraged by the positive community benefits of credit unions. While I'm no expert as to how things go down at a credit union, I recently got an email from Vancity (our credit union) that reinforced our decision to switch. It told me that every year, 30 per cent of Vancity's net profits go back to members and their communities. This year, that's over $15 million.

I think that's pretty cool.

To be clear, I'm a fan of all credit unions and I also appreciate that they work together. Check out Credit Unions of BC to see what I mean.

There's one other thing that I want to mention, just in case you're like us and are confused about financial protection during these tumultuous economic times: All credit unions that have been issued a business authorization to conduct business in British Columbia have deposit insurance for monies deposited by its members.

Oh yeah, I guess I should also mention that after eight months we have no complaints about customer service (except the fact that our branch isn't open on Saturdays).

Here's to living up to our prairie roots (where co-operatives and credit unions abound)!


Lydia said...

I love my credit union (Coast Capital) because I PAY NO MONTHLY FEES. I seriously cannot comprehend why everybody doesn't switch. Kelly pays $12/month. What the heck?

I never go into an actual branch. I also love how we can use everyone else's ATMS, including HSBC.

Erin Riley said...

I don't have monthly fees either, but I have to keep a minimum balance in my account. If we had done more research, I suspect we *may* have chosen Coast Capital too.

Thanks for the tip about HSBC!

Anonymous said...

Hmm, maybe I should switch to a credit union. I don't see many of them around downtown TO, but I *think* there is an Ontario Public Service Employees' Credit Union. I bank with RBC and ING and am happy with both (esp. ING). I'll think on it.

Erin C.