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New checking account to help people in economy
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (9/14/12)--A checking account designed to help people get back on their feet financially in an area where unemployment is at 12.8% and the recovery is slow has been launched by Riverside, Calif.-based Altura CU.

The new Reliance Checking Account, designed to help individuals caught in the wake of the slow recovery, comes with a regular Visa Debit Card, online banking, mobile banking and eStatements.

Unemployment in the area, known as the Inland Empire is well above the 8% national rate and nearly two points higher than California's 10.7% rate. Local foreclosure rates were among the highest in the nation and continue to be the fifth highest in the state. Altura itself struggled for a couple of years as a result. Now that Altura is on a stronger foundation, it is reaching out to help and do what credit unions do best, said the $708 million asset credit union.

"We are offering a new beginning to people by providing a tool for recovery," said Jennifer Binkley, Altura chief operating officer. Many local residents have been left with credit problems and a negative credit history.

"Traditional banks turn them away, not just for loans, but also when applying to open a checking or savings account. Can you imagine having no access to ATMs, no resources for paying bills, no relationship with a financial institution?" Binkley said.

Altura's Reliance Checking is specifically designed to assist individuals who have financial difficulties, unpaid closures and negative history reported to ChexSystems. A negative report usually results in a denial to open a new account.

"This is an area where we want to assist," Binkley added. "Credit unions were created to do exactly this kind of thing. Our Reliance Checking is a temporary solution that can evolve into a regular Altura account. This checking account will have an immediate impact on people's lives. It will make managing the financial portion of their lives a lot easier and provide a path to a traditional account."

With the account, members can recover and rebuild their financial status, and become eligible for other checking accounts and financial services that Altura offers. It comes with a Visa Debit Card that looks exactly like every other card Altura issues--with no red flags to embarrass cardholders. It also provides access to an educational program and support. The account has a $10 monthly service fee.

After six months of positive account activity, and after having paid off an outstanding checking account-related, Reliance Checking account holders can move to the next level--the Renew Checking Account. The account has no minimum balance requirements, allows members to write personal checks, and adds ATM deposit access. After six months of positive Renew account activity, members become eligible for any Altura checking account.

"This isn't something we had to do, but something we believe is the right thing to do. To put it simply, it's needed and it will help," said Binkley.
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