Five things you need to know about credit unions

(CBS News) The federal reserve has vowed to keep interest rates low for the next three years, which could be bad news for those who are nearing retirement or are already living on a fixed income.

Due to the low rates and rising amount of bank fees, many people are taking their money to credit unions. Jack Otter, Executive Editor of CBS MoneyWatch, joined "CBS This Morning" on Monday to walk through the differences between credit unions and banks and to explain what consumers should expect from credit unions.

Here are five things Otter says you should know about credit unions:

  1. Being a member of a credit union is not always tied to employment: Credit unions do have membership requirements, but these days it's much easier to becom ea member. Visit CUlookup.com or a ASmarterchoice.org to search for credit unions you may be able to join.
  2. Credit union rates are generally better than banks: Interest rates are generally high on saving and lower on loans at credit unions than at banks.
  3. ATMs are readily available: Contrary to what many people assume, most credit union members have wide access to ATMs. Most credit unions belong to the Co-Op Network, a confederation of 28,000 surcharge-free machines across the U.S. and Canada.
  4. Watch out for their investment products: Often investment firms are given space in credit union branches to access member data and will pitch members on expensive annuities and high-fee mutual funds that are best to avoid.
  5. They don't always put members first, so read the fine print.: Always read the find print on CD documents at credit unions to make sure they don't have the unilateral right to change penalties or other terms after you've bought the savings product.

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