Credit unions depositing thousands of new customers

August 11, 2014

Credit unions are on a roll nationally and in New Mexico.

Credit union membership in the U.S. topped 100 million in June and grew by 2.9 percent in the 12 months that ended June 30, Credit Union Association of New Mexico CEO Paul Stull told Albuquerque Business First.

“In New Mexico, there are more than 735,000 members, almost two-thirds of the state’s 2 million residents, with more than 25,000 members joining in the last year,” Stull said. “So these newest numbers show our members know we are looking out for their best interests.”

Stull said that nationally, credit unions added 2.85 million new members in the past 12 months and the growth rate is the fastest since 2000. Membership grew by 2.5 percent in 2013 and 2.1 percent in 2012, he added.

Credit unions are not-for-profit cooperative organizations, and Stull estimated that because of their lower fees, they save New Mexicans an average of $125 per household per year in fees and other banking costs. That translates into $49 million a year in consumer savings, Stull said.

Why are credit unions so popular with consumers?

“One is the fact that credit union members are able to save more than $125 a year in loans fees, and for a lot of families that is a good amount,” Stull said. “I also think there is a very predominant sentiment in the country on the part of consumers that big banks were wholly responsible for the troubles that took place in the recession and that they have never been held accountable, and consumers are voting with their feet.”

In a prepared statement, Mike Schenk, chief economist with the Credit Union National Association, said publicity about banking fees in 2011 helped turn consumers to credit unions.

“In 2010, credit union membership barely grew, expanding by about 0.65 percent, or about 600,000 memberships,” Schenk said. “But with the spotlight turned in 2011 to the increasing fees banks were charging – particularly for debit cards and other products – and the additional publicity for the lower and fewer fees at credit unions by contrast, membership growth that year more than doubled over the previous year, by 1.4 million – and the rate of growth has increased in each subsequent year.”

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