MADISON, Wis. (5/19/11)--Credit unions are providing access to lower fees for services, relative to large banks, according to some media sources. George Poitou, chief operating officer for SCE FCU, El Monte, Calif., said his $81 million-asset credit union attempts to keep fees low for members while maintaining a high level of service (sgvtribune.com May 16). However, pending legislation in Congress that would reduce debit interchange fees from their current average of 44 cents per transaction to 12 cents per transaction would hurt his credit union, Poitou told the publication. SCE would have lost money last year if interchange fees his credit union received from merchants were reduced by 70%. If the new interchange proposal goes into effect, SCE will either have to eliminate free checking or alter its interest rates on loans and deposits, he added. Credit unions often help people who are unable to obtain loans elsewhere, Poitou told sgvtribune.com. And credit unions operate--in contrast to banks--by modifying loans right from the start. Without that type of help, many more people would have lost their homes by now, he added. The California Credit Union League is monitoring the proposed legislation as it approaches the extended July 21 deadline, Jeremy Empol, league director of federal government grass roots advocacy, told sgvtribune.com. In a related matter, money.blogs.time.com Tuesday said the best terms on financial accounts and loans most often are available at credit unions and small banks. Credit unions also regularly drub banks in customer satisfaction surveys, the publication said. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) opposes a proposal in Congress capping interchange fees and has told federal lawmakers that such action would harm consumers by driving up costs of debit cards, limiting consumer options, and harming competition and technological innovation. Interchange fees allow business costs, including the risk of consumer nonpayment, to be shared by the payments participants, CUNA said. It is asking Congress to stop and study the impact of the proposal.