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News Now: February 27, 2015

Bankrate highlights CU affordability vs. banks: 'No surprise,' says Nussle

CU System
NEW YORK (2/27/15)--Credit unions continue to offer free checking accounts to their members at a high rate, while more and more banks continue to charge for them.

Click to view larger image 's 2015 Credit Union Checking Survey found the nation's 50 largest credit unions bested the banks for pricing on checking accounts. (Bankrate Graphic)
Nearly three-quarters of credit unions (72%) offer free checking, compared with only 38% of the largest banks in the United States, according to a recent report from .

Five years ago, 65% of banks offered free checking, compared with 78% of credit unions.

"As not-for-profit, member-owned, community-based financial institutions, credit unions are focused on providing the best service for their members," said CUNA President/CEO Jim Nussle. "The fact that credit unions by and large offer better deals to their members than other financial institutions is no surprise. With lower fees and better rates, more and more Americans are discovering that credit unions are their best financial partner."

In addition to those that offer always-free checking accounts, 26% more--for a total of 98%--offer accounts that become free when certain requirements are met, such as when e-statements, direct deposit or a combination of both are used, the report found.

Further, 62% of credit unions have no minimum deposit, and those that do require an average of $9.84, compared with $65.83 at banks.

Credit unions also charge members less than banks when it comes to overdraft fees, with the average fee at credit unions at $26.78 compared with $32.74 at banks.

"When evaluating checking accounts, consumers should definitely include credit unions in their search," said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst. "They have competitive offerings and many participate in large ATM networks that extend the credit union's reach."

To use out-of-network ATMs, credit unions most commonly charge a fee of $1.50, while banks charge $2.50. However, many credit unions belong to ATM networks that provide access to more than 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs nationwide.

Tweets tell savings story during NCUA Twitter chat

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (2/27/15)--Credit unions and their members shared tips for building up savings in a Twitter chat Thursday. The agency held the chat as part of America Saves and Military Saves Week, which feature outreach efforts all throughout this week to encourage consumer savings.

Kenneth Worthey, National Credit Union Administration financial literacy and outreach analyst, joined staff of America and Military Saves to share the latest on national savings rates, provide tips on developing healthy savings habits and identify resources to help maximize those savings.

See the Storify below for highlights from NCUA's Twitter chat, conducted through its @MyCUGov handle.

CUNA: Cyberthreat center could be helpful, more needed to address CUs' concerns

WASHINGTON (2/27/15)--While CUNA supports the concept of information sharing as a key component to combating cyberthreats, a new White House initiative does not go far enough in addressing cybersecurity issues for credit unions.

The Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center (CTIIC), announced this week by the White House, will focus on "connecting the dots" regarding cyber threats affecting American interests.

"The CTIIC will provide integrated all-source intelligence analysis related to foreign cyberthreats and cyberincidents affecting U.S. national interests; support the U.S. government centers responsible for cybersecurity and network defense; and facilitate and support efforts by the government to counter foreign cyberthreats," reads the fact sheet issued by the White House.

Stopping merchant data breaches is a top regulatory and legislative priority for CUNA, which has sent numerous letters to lawmakers urging the creation of strong data breach legislation. While several data breach bills are currently circulating the halls of Congress, CUNA is pushing for more aggressive legislation.

Such legislation must include a strong data protection standard for merchants and a national consumer notification standard that would preempt the patchwork of state laws currently in place across the country.

Two major breaches alone, at Home Depot and Target, have cost credit unions more than $90 million, despite the credit unions having nothing to do with the breaches.

CUNA created and has contributed numerous op-eds to publications calling for stricter merchant data security standards.

'Patent troll' hearing furthers conversation on combating abusive demands

WASHINGTON (2/27/15)--The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee explored the best ways to limit deceptive patent demand letters in a hearing Thursday. CUNA appreciates the continued conversation on abusive patent demand letters, and combating those types of letters remains a critical piece of CUNA's advocacy efforts.

CUNA submitted a letter for the hearing record Thursday, was encouraged by a patent reform bill introduced earlier this month and wrote in support of another bill that was introduced last year.

As spelled out in the letter sent to the committee, as well as a letter sent earlier this year to members of Congress, CUNA supports patent reform legislation that:
  • Improves the litigation process to make the cost and burdens equitable and more efficient;
  • Requires patent demand letters provide details about the patent and who is claiming to assert it; and
  • Improves the post-grant review of patents such as making the Covered Business Method (patents that claim a method or operation used in practice, administration or management of a financial product or service) permanent and more useable for smaller entities.
Witness Vince Malta, liaison for law and policy for the National Association of Realtors, said he supported the notion of increased transparency, saying such letters should be required to contain specifics on the relevant patent claim, details on how the patent was infringed upon, a description on the investigation of the infringement and disclosure of the parties behind the patent claim.

Vera Ranieri, a staff attorney from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that works to protect innovation and consumer interests, said any legislation submitted by Congress should not limit the ability of small businesses to turn to their state's attorney general, often the first place they turn after receiving a demand letter.

CUNA believes that state attorneys general have an important role to play for businesses combating abusive patent letters.

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Amias Gerety nominated for Treasury's asst. sec. of FIs

WASHINGTON (2/27/15)--President Barack Obama has announced the nomination of Amias Gerety to the position of assistant secretary for financial institutions at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Gerety served as acting secretary following the resignation of Cyrus Amir-Morki in April 2014 to November 2014.

The position is responsible for developing and coordinating the Treasury's policies on issues affecting financial institutions.

Gerety currently serves as a counselor in the Treasury's Office of Domestic Finance, a position he has held since June 2014. From 2011 to 2014, he was the deputy assistant secretary for Financial Stability Oversight Council at Treasury.  He also was a senior adviser in the Office of Financial Institutions at Treasury from 2009 to 2010. 

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CUs as public funds depositories high on Fla. legislative agenda

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (2/27/15)--Public funds depository choice will be the top legislative priority of the Florida Credit Union Association (FCUA), when the Florida Legislature convenes Monday, the League of Southeastern Credit Unions (LSCU) said.

The first step for legislation to allow credit unions in Florida to become qualified public funds depositories has taken place ( eSignal Daily Feb. 27). Bills have been filed in the Florida House--HB 907 sponsored by Rep. Bill Hager (R-Boca Raton)--and the Senate--SB 1154 sponsored by Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah).

Passing legislation to allow credit unions to qualify as depository institutions for public funds is being sought in Alabama as well.

"We believe this legislation would spur competition among eligible public depositories and create an opportunity for greater savings and returns on deposits," said LSCU President/CEO Patrick La Pine. 

Currently, 33 states allow credit unions to qualify as depositories of public funds.

The FCUA will also press for legislation that requires higher data security standards by which merchants and vendors would be held accountable if they are responsible for compromised data, instead of leaving financial institutions such as banks and credit unions with the bill.

CUNA continues to urge lawmakers to pass legislation that would require merchants to adhere to the same strict payment data security standards that financial institutions must meet. 

Also on the legislative docket is "patent troll" reform that would ban abusive patent demand letters and lawsuits that can harm the financial services industry.

Along with much of the business community, the FCUA is supporting requiring Florida high school students to take a half-credit class on financial literacy and personal finance management.

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CUNA, Coopera release new toolkit for outreach to Spanish-speaking members

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MADISON, Wis. (2/27/15)--CUNA and Coopera have announced the latest addition to their partnership product suite, the Spanish Language Seminar in a Box for Members series-- Organice sus Archivos Financieros . The seminar, whose title translates to Organize Your Financial Records, was created to help credit unions better serve their Hispanic members.

CUNA and Coopera formed a strategic partnership in 2009 in order to help credit unions grow by reaching the Hispanic market.

"Member financial education is a core credit union differentiator," said Michelle Dosher, CUNA market research and consumer education managing editor. "Planning these events can be difficult and time consuming for credit union employees, especially when there is a language barrier. Our reusable Spanish language Seminars in a Box allow credit unions to reduce planning time and ensure their members have an opportunity to learn in their preferred language."

The Organice sus Archivos Financieros seminar kit includes a PowerPoint presentation with speaker notes, member worksheets, evaluation forms, a sample newsletter article, a sample press release, an informational video clip, and full-color promotional poster and flyer graphics, in addition to various supporting materials in English. The seminar will answer various financial record-keeping questions including:
  • What documents should I keep?
  • How long should I store my records?
  • Why was my previous record-keeping method ineffective? and
  • What is the best way to get organized?
"Hispanics are the largest, fastest-growing, youngest and most underserved groups in the United States," said Miriam De Dios, Coopera CEO. "Credit unions investing resources in their local Hispanic communities and offering targeted financial education are able to reach this growing market while making a difference in their members' lives."

CUNA and Coopera currently offer two other Spanish language Seminars in a Box: Acceso a Dinero a Traves de Credito (Access to Money with Credit) and Pasos Basicos Para el Control de su Dinero (Basic Steps to Managing Your Money). With the newest launch, CUNA is introducing new bundled pricing: $300 for one seminar, $520 for two seminars and $690 for all three seminars.

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