Remember to move your money to a credit union on Saturday

I hesitate to give people financial advice, as I don’t want to come across like Glenn Beck when he asks his followers to consult with God and then invest everything they own in over-priced gold coins, but, as this Saturday is Move Your Money to a Credit Union Day, I thought that I should at least mention that we’ve got a great little credit union right here in Ypsi that’s anxious to take the money you’ve currently got earning interest for the likes of Bank of America and Chase. Following is a brief interview that I conducted with the head of the Washtenaw Federal Credit Union, Greg Gurka. (I still haven’t received an answer to my last question, but I wanted to go ahead and get this up on the site today, before people started making plans for Saturday.)

MARK: Are you aware that there’s an initiative afoot to get people to take their money out of America’s big banks and move it into locally owned credit unions on November 5th?

GREG: Yes, we’ve been following the movement since it hit the news.

MARK: Have you noticed an uptick in business since this summer? If so, to what extent to you attribute it to the growing resentment the public at large seems to have toward the big banks?

GREG: Yes, we have seen a definite increase in new members over the last four weeks and our survey shows an increase in those moving due to being dissatisfied with their banks.

MARK: Who is eligible to start at account at the Washtenaw Federal Credit Union?

GREG: Anyone that lives, works, worships or attends school in Washtenaw County, or an immediate relative of an existing member.

MARK: And, how onerous of an undertaking is it to switch over to the credit union?

GREG: Joining the credit union is no more work than opening a bank account. We need a state issued photo ID, SS# and a minimum $5 deposit. The initial $5 is actually a voting share, as the credit union is comprised of members, not customers. During the account opening, we try to pull from our conversation what services and products would be most beneficial to the individual. We offer a full range of financial services.

MARK: Are there other credit unions in Washtenaw County that are open to the general public?

GREG: Yes, but I believe we’ve been here the longest receiving our Charter in 1949.

MARK: Will you be putting extra staff on this November 5th? Have you engaged in any advertising in the community, in order to capitalize on the national attention that has come along with the Occupy Wall Street movement?

GREG: We began running a series of ads on the local radio stations right after B of A made their big announcement (about raising their rates $5 a month). We have signage in front of both offices. We will have extra staff at the Whittaker Rd. office, and, although the Mansfield office lobby is not normally open on Saturday, we will have staff on hand Nov. 5th to open accounts. We’ll have coffee and donuts as well.

MARK: So, you won’t be setting up tables outside the local Bank of America branches?

GREG: No, it’s November and we want everyone to be comfortable during the account opening process.

MARK: Is there anything else that you would like people to know about the Washtenaw Federal Credit Union, how it’s run, what its mission is, etc?

GREG: We try to stay with the old Credit Union Philosophy of “People helping People.” We are locally owned by our members, and governed by a democratically elected Volunteer Board of Directors. A CU Director might be your mechanic, the Chief of the local Fire Department, an existing or retired school teacher or anyone else that put their name on the ballot and was elected by the members at the annual meeting.

What’s really interesting it that because we’re all part of the local community, you can bend the ear of a Board Member, the CEO, Manager or a Member Service Representative where ever you see them. It could be at Church, Kroger, McDonalds or the gas station, and we’ll always share what we’ve been told with the proper parties.

On Friday, the CEO of the Michigan Credit Union League will be interviewed by Lucy Ann Lance and we encourage everyone to listen to what he has to say.

MARK: I’ve heard recently that there are two kinds of credit unions – ones that are Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), which, as I understand it, means that they’re obligated to invest in local community development projects, and those that are not. Can you tell me if the Washtenaw Federal Credit Union is CDFI, and, if so, why that’s important?

According to the information I was able to find online, the Washtenaw Federal Credit Union has a membership of over 6,672, with assets of more than $30,560,083. And, between its two branches, the WFCU has 12 full-time employees, and 3 part-time employees. It’s probably also worth nothing that, up until last year, when the bank decided to broaden its membership requirements, so that anyone with a tie to Washtenaw County could join, it was called the Ypsilanti Federal Credit Union.

Regardless of where you move your money on Saturday, I encourage you to move it away from the big guys. The ever-growing corporate banks of Wall Street do not appreciate your business, and they do not have your best interests at heart.

Wake up this Saturday morning, and remove their relentlessly jamming blood funnel once and for all.

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  1. Glen S.
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    I’ve been a member of what is now called Washtenaw Area Federal Credit Union since at least 1989, and have always received great service and great rates, and enjoyed all the features of a “regular” bank — including checking, savings, credit/debit cards, online bill-pay, etc.

    Most of all, I like the fact that, instead of being siphoned off to Wall Street or wherever … my money stays right here at home to help fund mortgages and business loans for my Ypsilanti neighbors, while any “profit” that results goes directly back to the CU members either has higher interest paid on deposits, or lower rates/fees.

    People should also know is that credit union deposits are insured by the NCUA (which is like the FDIC for credit unions); and that nearly all credit unions (including WAFCU) participate in a network that allows members to use each others’ ATM’s free of charge, so members have convenient, free access to their money from coast-to-coast — which, frankly, is one of the last few advantages of doing business with one of the “mega” banks.

  2. JC
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Abby Zimet is saying 650,000 people have already moved their money—and it’s not even Saturday yet.

  3. Bonnie
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    There is a Community Development Credit Union ( in our area, just over in ann arbor, called the 2nd Baptist Church of Ann Arbor Federal Credit Union ( I’m afraid I don’t know much more about it than those links, however.

    In Ypsi we also have the EMU credit union (, which is tucked away over by Lowell St.

    And lest anyone forget- many, if not all, credit unions do offer the full range of bank products- mortgages, car loans, personal loans, credit cards. As these are the moneymakers for the big banks, I’d encourage people to switch over these accounts as well- not just checking and savings.

  4. Brainless
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    DO THIS NOW! Avoid the rush and don’t wait until Saturday.

    Let me tell you a little story about credit unions and the $%#$% vile ChexSystems:

    Many years ago, I had a dispute with TCF (aka, Those C***-sucking F***heads). It was a minor dispute where they hit me with a tons of fees thanks to their little habit of “debits out first, assets in last”. After discussion with the bank, they decided they were right and I was wrong and they entered me into the ChexSystem as some sort of chronic overdrafter. This happened once. Needless to say, I parted ways with these bungholes.

    Forward a couple years: I go to open an account for a side business I was setting up. No big deal, I thought. I had cash and wanted to deposit it – not take a loan, not get a credit card. I just needed a place to hold deposits and from which to write checks – you know, with MY money. The first bank I go to, I filled out all the forms to set up an account. The to-that-point friendly woman I was talking to cross-referenced my name to the ChexSystem and you would have thought I had tried to hold up the place. It was basically, “We can’t do business with you. Leave now.” No exaggeration.

    I go back to TCF in an attempt to clear this up. They say firmly that I owe them this money. Just so I can get on with my life, I pay them this money. (If memory serves, it wasn’t much more than a hundred bucks – all their damn fees.) They give me a letter officially stating I have paid them in full. On to the next bank…

    Same story. All smiles and hugs and then BAM! You are a ChexSystem scofflaw. Get the f*** out. I show them my letter. Nope. Not good enough. Doesn’t matter. ChexSystem uber alles. Even if you pay what you owe, they don’t care. Banking is no longer about handling your money. It has become very much about harvesting fees. If you doubt me, do the research. Day-to-day banking has become fee harvesting, little more.

    I believe that the only way to contact the ChexSystem was to write a letter!!! Can you imagine? In this day an age, we have a quasi-legal adjudication system entirely serving the banks and you and I have virtually no say in the matter and barely any point of redress. (What? Am I supposed to lawyer up over a hundred bucks?) Once you are on their list, you cannot bank with any of the big banks FOR SEVERAL YEARS. Again, I point to the fact that I don’t have a history of bad banking. I had a single incident at one bank that was in dispute.

    So, I go to the credit union. (Why I didn’t do so originally, I simply can’t say. I must have been in a fog.) I mention the ChexSystem fiasco. The woman helping me looks at me like I’m crazy and just signs me up like I’m a human being with some money to deposit. No muss. No fuss. No treating me like a criminal. I walk out a customer/member – a human being. THANK YOU!!!

    DO THIS.

  5. Posted November 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Bank of Ann Arbor is not a bad choice, either — the Board and ownership is generally local, and I appreciate that they have a branch in downtown Ypsi, and we’ve been happily banking with them for about 6 years. I’m a big fan of credit unions, but I’m also a big fan of being able to walk to my bank.

    I don’t have any personal experience with United Bank & Trust, but they’re also a local bank, based in Tecumseh.

  6. TeacherPatti
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Been in UMCU for years and I love it. Last night, I finally applied for a UMCU credit card so that I could switch over my credit card from Bank of America. I’m just waiting to hear back from them!

    Just as an aside…once you are a member, you are always a member, even if your affiliation changes. (Since I am splitting from Mr.TeacherPatti, I was concerned that I would be kicked out since I never went to UM. No worries. And not to break any hearts but the next ex-Mr.TeacherPatti is already on the horizon :))

  7. Megan
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been with a credit union since I moved back to Michigan and I’m proud to say that I closed my Chase credit card and opened a new one with my CU just about a month ago. Now if I can get my mortgage moved, I’ll be completely free!!

  8. Posted November 4, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never understood why people bank anywhere but a credit union.

  9. Andre
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had a UMCU account for years , but have kept lazily using my Comerica account even though I’ve had pretty bad service from them on multiple occasions – a bank branch manager who mistakenly shredded my card, then flipped out when I didn’t like it, incorrect fees, etc. My main reason for delaying was laziness: that account was all configured for bill pay & direct deposit, and I couldn’t be bothered to re-set everything up. I finally switched everything over and shut down my Comerica account last month. I shouldn’t have waited this long – it was ridiculously easy to change everything, and the UMCU website is actually pretty useful.

  10. Mr. X
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had a mortgage through United Bank and Trust for over a decade now, and I’m really happy with them. A lot of my friends have had their mortgages sold and resold several times over, but United never got into the business of shuffling around assets and selling their debt to make money. I like knowing the woman who manages my mortgage by name, and knowing that I have someone to call if I have a question. I probably could have saved a few dollars in closing costs if I’d gone with a national firm, but I think I made the right decision. (They used to have Tecumseh in their name, but they seem to have dropped it.)

  11. Mr. X
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    As for why more people stay with the big banks, Pete, I think it has to do with convenience. Generally speaking, they have more ATMs, and their on-line bill payment interfaces are better. And I guess those things they keep sending in the mail must really work.

    This move to credit unions is probably a good thing all around. It will keep more of our money closer to home. It’ll also allow credit unions to invest more in their online functionality, etc. It may also force the banks to reevaluate how they treat people. We’ve already seen Bank of America retract their plan for to charge debit card holders $5 a month. Who knows what might come next. Maybe they’ll stop lobbying against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  12. Emma
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had United Bank and Trust threaten to foreclose on my house because they said my property taxes were not paid (they were paid late, but paid in full when the threatening letters started). I left the Huron River Area Credit Union after overhearing a teller giving out what I considered confidential information to the person ahead of me (telling a man about some checks his wife brought in that he obviously did not know about) there are disadvantages to everyone knowing your name… The west branch of United Bank and Trust is much better than the one on State St. Bank of Ann Arbor in downtown Ypsi. is good. Online banking for both of these banks is horrible compared to Chase or Citi… Are most credit unions even open on Saturday? I’ve banked many places and all of them have had their plusses and minuses. Not to belittle the movement but do your research… some may find this transfer causing significant inconvenience.

  13. Posted November 4, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Although I am happy with both of my credit unions, I will admit that their online services and branch/ATM accessibility are terrible.

    I figure putting up with those small inconveniences are just a small price for all of the extra benefits.

    I heard someone say that credit unions were “communist” today.

  14. Glen S.
    Posted November 4, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    @ Peter

    Have you checked to see if your CU participates in the “CO-OP” network of shared ATMs?

    Washtenaw Area Federal Credit Union, where I belong, does, and I find I can always find a handy (fee-free) ATM whenever I need one, at:

  15. LisaD
    Posted November 5, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    My favorite thing about the UM Credit Union?

    Car loans at 3%. Seriously! Now, I have excellent credit but even without that the rates are way below other places.

  16. Meta
    Posted November 8, 2011 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    From the Credit Union National Association:

    The official Bank Transfer Day came and went on Saturday, and by now the dust has settled and tallies have been taken of how many consumers switched from being bank customers to credit union members on the day that was so much ballyhooed in advance.

    But regardless of the numbers of new accounts or increased deposits generated by “the Day,” the real story for credit unions is the lasting benefits that the event has fostered.

    Increased awareness of credit unions and the credit union difference is clearly one of the big benefits.

    Just as big banks were experiencing what might seem like insurmountable reputational damage–when announcements of new fees were coupled with consumers’ residual resentment of bailouts–credit unions were highlighted in media across the country as an important resource for consumers looking for a better way to do their banking business.

    Scores of stories nationwide highlighted that credit unions are not-for-profit and owned by their members, compared to banks that have a responsibility to provide a good return to their shareholders.

    More consumers than ever before heard the message that credit unions generally offer higher rates on savings, lower rates on loans, and lower fees than the megabanks.

    “This gives credit unions an incredibly strong new foundation from which to launch future branding campaigns,” Mark Wolff, Credit Union National Association (CUNA) senior vice president of communications, observed Saturday.

    As USA Today put it “credit unions view raising fees as a last resort.” Or as The Los Angeles Times noted, “Credit unions…are set up for such hands-on service at a low cost. Owned by members who are linked by jobs or geography, their core focus is on
    consumer accounts, although some these days are doing more small-business lending.” And these two represent dozens of such articles feature by national media.

    Myth-busting is another forward-going benefit delivered by the media attention.

    The extensive interviews with consumers helped identify for credit unions where confusion points exist, so going forward from Bank Transfer Day credit unions will know where they have to strengthen their message.

    Membership rules were questioned, and CUNA, state leagues, and credit unions got extensive opportunity to note that with a quick visit to sites like CUNA’s, almost anyone can find a credit union to join.

    When convenience was challenged, CUNA and credit unions explained how credit unions don’t compete with each other as banks do and work together to benefit all members.

    CO-OP Financial Services and FSCC (Financial Service Centers Cooperative Inc.) informed media in separate campaigns that convenience is not an issue for many credit unions.

    CO-OP Financial Services, manager of CO-OP Network, a nationwide network of 28,000 ATMs for members of 3,000 participating credit unions, for instance launched an information campaign in mid-October that was viewed by more than 500 editors and appeared on numerous sites, including, Marketwatch,
    Investor and Optimum Online as of the end of the month. At the same time, FSCC explained the convenience of shared branching networks.

    Another example of myth debunking was called just that: AOL’s, in an article entitled “5 Credit Union Myths Debunked.”

    Written by The Motley Fool columnist Matt Cropp, it acknowledged the public outcry on fees and the fact that “normally low-profile credit unions have been receiving a great deal of attention as an alternative to the big banks.” This piece, and others like it, help to clear up five misconceptions about credit unions. Instead it reported that:

    • Many credit unions have community charters and are easy to join (readers were referred to to locate a credit union);
    • Credit unions offer a full range of competitive products and services;
    • Credit unions through ATMs and shared service centers offer nationwide convenience;
    • Savings at credit unions are safe and sound and backed by the government; and
    • Members buy a share and “own” the credit union.

    And what about the influx of deposit?

    CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel said Bank Transfer Day could drive the credit union system over $1 trillion in total assets.

    But Hampel emphasized that the true impact of Bank Transfer Day may not be seen at first.

    “The real story,” he said, “is not asset growth, but membership growth and the new, mostly young members that credit unions
    have now gained.”

    Attracting younger members has been a topic of concern for years among credit unions, but Bank Transfer Day—which reached well in excess of 600,000 through its Facebook page alone—was in large part speaking directly to the younger adult crowd.

    Around 650,000 new members transferred a total of $4.5 billion in funds into new credit union savings accounts in the month leading up to Bank Transfer Day. An estimated 80% of credit unions saw their membership increase in October.

    Since Sept. 29, California-based credit unions have seen the biggest gains, bringing in an estimated 90,000 new members and $624 million in new deposits. Texas credit unions also saw a large surge in new deposits, gaining $326 million in new deposits from 47,000 new members. In total, 21 of 50 states and the District of Columbia have seen membership increases of 10,000 or more in the past month.

    One of Bank Transfer Day’s longest lasting legacies will unfold, Hampel said, as those new members relate their positive credit union experiences to their friends and families, creating even more new members, he added.

    For more about Bank Transfer Day, see related article: CUs were prepared for Bank Transfer Day–and the future.

  17. Meta
    Posted November 9, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    40,000 Americans Joined Credit Unions On ‘Bank Transfer Day.’

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  1. […] business with Bank of Ann Arbor than with Chase or Bank of America. (Or, even better yet, you could move your money to a credit union.) This isn’t intended, at least from my perspective, to be an attack on Bank of Ann Arbor, […]

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