Last Updated Feb 28, 2011 5:49 PM EST
I've always been a huge advocate of credit unions - ever since opening my first checking account as a teenager with the local Digital Federal Credit Union in Shrewsbury, Mass. Even though I moved away, my account is still active and I enjoy free checking, as well as a monthly ATM fee reimbursement for using out-of-network ATMs. It's nice to know some things haven't changed.
My MoneyWatch colleague Jill Schlesinger is also a fan, as she writes in her piece: Hate Your Bank? Dump That Sucker For a Credit Union!
That said, credit unions haven't been completely immune to the financial crisis, and have raised some other fees. Credit union ATM fees, for example, have increased by an average of 5%, or 10 cents per withdrawal. The Bankrate survey also found that bounced check or insufficient fund fees have jumped 5% to $26.05 on average. And for those credit unions that do require a minimum balance to open a checking account, the average initial deposit is also on the rise: Last year the minimum requirement to open a checking account was at least $124.94; this year it's up 7.5% to $134.56.
Still, many of these increases are less than what bigger banks have recently imposed on customers.
I think parking some savings at a credit union, as either your sole banking destination or part of your overall banking "portfolio," is a fine way to bank smart. The Credit Union National Association boasts that practically everyone is eligible to be a member at credit union based on where you live, the company your work for, the school you attend or organizations you're a part of. Need somewhere to start your search? Check out FindaCreditUnion.com and CreditUnion.coop.
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Photo courtesy: Svadilfari's photostream on Flickr