WESTBROOK, Maine (1/9/09)--During the economy’s difficulties, a new study is providing good news for 600,000 consumers in Maine: Using a credit union saved Maine consumers nearly $73 million in 2007, nearly double the savings in 2005. In an independent study, a former Maine state economist said the latest figure is based on the ability of credit unions to offer consumers higher interest payments on deposits, lower interest rates on loans, and fewer and lower fees on financial services. In “An Examination of the Economic Impact on the Maine Economy and the Financial Benefits to Maine Consumers of the State’s Credit Union, Charles Lawton, an economist with Planning Decisions in South Portland, concluded that credit unions have significantly lower, fewer, or no fees compared to for-profit financial institutions. “Maine credit unions provide a significant benefit to not only the 600,000 members who use a credit union but for all consumers,” Lawton said. “It’s quite hard to imagine what the rates and fees of other financial institutions would be if there were no credit unions or (if) credit unions in Maine were not as strong as they are. Consumers are well-served by Maine’s credit unions,” he added. In 2007, the financial benefits of using a credit union to the state’s consumers was nearly $73 million, which breaks down to: $16 million in higher interest rates on savings accounts; $23 million in lower interest rates on loans; and $34 million in lower and fewer fees for financial services. In a similar study of 2005, benefits were nearly $40 million. According to Maine Credit Union League President John Murphy, the great efforts made to offer such savings in a challenging economy make credit unions an increasingly valuable resource for people in the state. “The credit union philosophy of putting the interests of their members first continues to highlight the difference between credit unions and other financial institutions,” Murphy said, noting the credit union difference. “Now more than ever, Maine consumers recognize and appreciate the value of using a credit union,” he added. Murphy noted that Maine’s credit unions continue to be safe, sound and strong, despite challenges facing financial institutions and the financial services industry.