NEW YORK (3/5/10)--When MSN Money.com columnist Diane Mapes switched her credit card account to a credit union after a bank hiked her credit card interest rate, she began collecting "stories of people who've suffered the last straws and switched" to credit unions. Mapes reported that when she went to the credit union, she got a 6.99% interest rate card and was told there was no balance transfer fee. "That's all it took for me to switch," she wrote (MSNMoney.com March 4). There are other reasons to switch. She noted others pointed to "better customer service, higher interest rates on checking or savings accounts or the 'unfair or deceptive' practices used by 100% of bank credit cards" as "reasons they've kicked big banks to the curb." The article includes stories from consumers across the nation singing the praises of credit unions. Mike Phinney of Baltimore switched after his bank changed ownership and his banking contract, and depleted his two accounts by charging penalties for inactive accounts. Liz Washer of Amherst, Mass., said she had been with the same bank for eight years when a mistake resulted in an overdrawn account and penalty fees. A year later it happened again, and the bank' s strident, smug reaction prompted her to move to a credit union. The credit union's policies are more accommodating, and she isn't charged a fee every time she uses an ATM. Heather Murphy of Chandler, Ariz., moved to a credit union after her bank raised its interest rate for cards to 23% when she made one late payment on an account she normally paid off in full each month. The bank told her she wasn't the kind of customer it wanted; it made money by charging fees for customers who were late paying their bills. Michael Hanley, an accountant with small business clients, said credit unions offered his clients better loan rates and business practices. The story mentioned only two drawbacks to credit unions: technology--some credit unions' online banking systems don't interface with QuickBooks--and fewer branches. Mapes' conclusion: the pluses of credit unions outweigh the minuses for many. For the full story, use the resource link.