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Virginia CU helps members with ATM rebates

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RICHMOND, Va. (12/10/12)--A new program at Virginia CU (VACU) in Richmond, Va., is overcoming one of the most common objections to joining a credit union--"not enough ATMs."  Its solution  is not to build more ATMs, but to rebate the ATM fees charged by others.

The rebates have few restrictions and will take effect when members at the $2.33 billion-asset credit union use another institution's ATM for a cash withdrawal from their checking accounts.  

"When you build a new ATM, you increase convenience only for those who live or work near it. By going with surcharge rebates, we are now enabling our members to use ATMs virtually anywhere and have surcharge fees returned," explained Deb Wreden, Virginia CU senior vice president of product and delivery strategy.

The program went into effect in November and the first surcharge rebates were credited to member accounts Dec. 3.

VACU will rebate up to $8 per month in ATM surcharges for its credit union checking accounts that qualify. To receive surcharge rebates, members use their debit card for the withdrawal and have a qualifying direct deposit to their checking account.

ATM surcharges are fees assessed by other institutions for using their ATM to get cash. The amount of the surcharges varies, but is typically $2 to $5 per withdrawal. Surcharges are in addition to the network fee that consumers' own financial institutions charge for providing access to other network ATMs.

VACU already provides its members up to four checking withdrawals per month at other institutions' ATMs with no fee assessed. Members also enjoy free access to the ATMs at all WAWA (a chain of convenience store/gas stations located along the East Coast) locations in Virginia. In addition, VACU continues to offer free checking with no minimum balance requirements.

CUANYs Mellin rebuts bankers opposition to raising MBL

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ALBANY. N.Y. (12/10/12)--William J. Mellin, president/CEO of the Credit Union Association of New York (CUANY), refuted bank arguments against increased member business lending (MBL) authority for credit unions, in a letter to an area paper.

Mellin wrote a response to The Troy Record last week "strongly disagreeing" with a letter the paper ran by Frank Capaldo, head of the Independent Bankers Association of New York that opposes increasing small business lending (MBL) by credit unions.

"On behalf of New York's 421 credit unions, I strongly disagree with the opinions set forth by Mr. Capaldo,' Mellin wrote Thursday in The Troy Record. "Once again, banks are opposing credit unions' efforts to help small businesses access credit to help them grow and create much-needed jobs without offering alternatives to address the reduction of business credit by banks as a result of the recession.

"Mr. Capaldo states that the small businesses he spoke with claim they do not need access to more credit," Mellin continued. "How is it then that a recent poll commissioned by the American Sustainable Business Council, the Main Street Alliance and the Small Business Majority found 90% of small business owners believe that the availability of small business loans is a problem, and 60%  have faced difficulty trying to obtain loans that would grow their small business.

"Further, the survey found that 90% of small-business owners support making it easier for community banks and credit unions to make loans to small businesses," Mellin added.

To read the letter, use the link.

The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and credit unions are urging Congress to increase credit unions' MBL cap to 27.5% of assets from 12.25% so that more loans could be made to small businesses. CUNA and credit unions say that increasing credit unions' MBL cap would open up more opportunity to offer MBLs, inject $13 billion in business loans into the economy and create as many as 140,000 new jobs, with no cost to taxpayers.

Consumer notification OKd by court in SC data breach

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (12/10/12)--The South Carolina Department of Revenue last week received court approval to release the 3.3 million financial institution account numbers compromised in an October data breach to determine which taxpayers' accounts are at risk.

In the Court of Common Pleas for Richland County, the Revenue Department summoned the South Carolina Credit Union League (SCCUL) and South Carolina the Bankers Association (SCBA) and asked for an exemption from the state law that prohibits release of any tax return information (The Post and Courier Dec. 7).

The state Department of Revenue required permission from a judge because the agency is not allowed under state law to release the information to the financial institutions without a judicial order. Credit unions and banks now can request their account numbers.

Judge James R. Barber III ordered the agency to provide the account numbers as soon as possible.

"With this decision given, we and the SCBA are identifying the best method for providing our member institutions the information our taxpaying members and customers need to protect themselves," Steve Fowler, SCCUL president/CEO told News Now. "Once complete, these procedures will dictate that information is provided only at the request of the account holder, and that in return it is accessed solely for resolution to potential identity theft and fraud--nothing more."

As many as 3.8 million individual taxpayers, 1.9 million dependents, 699,900 businesses, 3.3 million bank accounts and 5,000 expired credit card accounts were compromised, according to  to Mandiant, a cyber security company hired by the state to investigate the incident.

The data could be used to steal identities, make fraudulent purchases and illegally access bank accounts, according to experts.

The breach was initiated when someone clicked on a malicious "phishing" e-mail sent to multiple Revenue Department employees in August.

SECU assists with teacher housing complex

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Raleigh, N.C. (12/10/12)--State Employees' CU (SECU) members helped fill the housing needs of North Carolina teachers with a $2.4 million, 0% interest-free loan. 

Click to view larger image Local representatives assist in the groundbreaking of the Echo Ridge Teacher Housing Complex located in Raeford, NC. The project was helped made possible by a $2.4 million 0% interest-free loan from the SECU Foundation, the charitable arm of State Employees' CU, Raleigh, N.C. (Photo provided by State Employees' CU)
The loan will assist in the construction of the Echo Ridge Teacher Housing Complex located in Raeford, N.C. The new complex will provide a safe and affordable housing option for new and current teachers in Hoke County and serve as a recruitment incentive for the school system. 

The SECU Foundation provided the loan funding through a partnership with the Partners for Hoke County Public Schools Education Foundation. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in November for the 24-unit, two-bedroom apartment complex, with Raeford City and Hoke County representatives and SECU and Hoke County school officials on hand. 

The complex is scheduled for completion in July.

This is the fourth teacher housing initiative supported by the SECU Foundation. Several North Carolina counties have struggled with recruitment and retention of teachers due to lack of affordable housing. As a result of the housing shortage, some teachers sought jobs in other counties where housing was more affordable and abundant.

The funding concept for Echo Ridge is one that has been replicated from SECU Foundation's first housing initiative that began in 2006.  As funds for the $2.4 million construction loan for Echo Ridge are repaid through rental income, SECU Foundation will recycle those assets to be used for future projects in other counties throughout North Carolina.

North Carolina Kansas CUs report growth

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RALEIGH, N.C. and WICHITA, Kan. (12/10/12)--Credit unions in Kansas and North Carolina reported robust growth last week.

Loans, assets and profitability were improved for the third quarter compared with a year ago for Kansas credit unions, according to according to the Kansas Department of Credit Unions' Third Quarter 2012 Call Report Statistics (Wichita Eagle Dec. 5).

Combined assets of the state's 79 credit unions increased 8.6% from a year ago to $4.3 billion.

Loans for the three-month period ending Sept. 30 rose 6.7% to $2.8 billion, compared with the same quarter a year ago, the report said.

Profitability also increased for Kansas credit unions, to 0.9% return on average assets--a key measure of profitability--compared with 0.72% in the third quarter of 2011. Kansas credit unions' return on average assets also was more than the 0.86% for credit unions nationwide in the third quarter, according to data from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).

In North Carolina, credit union membership numbers surged in the third quarter (Triangle Business Journal Dec. 7).

Two examples cited by the Journal were State Employees' CU and Local Government FCU, both of Raleigh.

State Employees' CU, with assets of $25.3 billion, boosted membership by 5.2%, to 1.8 million, in the 12 months ending Sept. 30-- nearly double the national growth rate of 2.7% for the same time frame, according to the NCUA.

Local Government FCU increased its membership by 7.4%, once again outpacing the national rate and the statewide growth rate of 3.2%.

Credit Union National Association senior economist, Steve Rick, credited the growth to improving consumer confidence, an aversion to higher bank fees and an improving new-car loan market. Nationally, the volume of new-car lending rose by 7% for the year ending Sept. 30 after shrinking for the past four years.

New-car loans at Local Government FCU increased by 80% to total loans of $45 million, in the year ending Sept. 30.

Local Government FCU lowered its interest rate on new-car loans to 1.99% in June and plans to keep it there through January, said spokeswoman Erica Hinton.

Video gaming teaches personal finance

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HELENA, Mont. (12/10/12)--In a world of gadgets and electronic games, credit unions have increasingly more options--and challenges--to engage teenagers. In 2010, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and the Wisconsin Credit Union League launched Money Mission, an online game that teaches teens between the ages of 15 and 19 about personal finances and, more importantly, how to strike a balance between financial matters and living an enjoyable life. 

Vanessa Lowe from National Credit Union Administration's Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives listens to Ben Schweder, vice president of Wisconsin Credit Union League Services talk about Money Mission at recent convention in Helena, Mont. (Photo provided by Montana Credit Union Network)
Now, Montana credit unions want to bring this interactive game to high school students in their state. Ben Schweder, vice president of Wisconsin Credit Union League Services, recently provided a demo of the gaming platform to group of credit union professionals at the Montana Credit Union Network Fall Forum in Helena.

Within the game, students live in a virtual community where they earn money, pay bills, decide on investments, and make purchases. "It's a dramatic tool that teaches real life skills like buying a car or stocks and managing a savings account after they've developed their own avatar," said Schweder.

In addition to teaching financial awareness to teens, Money Mission offers opportunities to apply for and earn scholarships to students, free classroom resources to teachers, and brand awareness to credit unions.

Kelly Cresswell, vice president of foundation activities for Student Assistance Foundation (SAF), a nonprofit in Helena, Montana, works with a number of financial literacy programs, but she says that only Money Mission places emphasis on maintaining personal happiness. "The link between happiness and financial security is pretty solid," Cresswell said. "And Money Mission backs up what they say with a scholarship program where participants can seek higher education, backing up the principles learned in the game."

Cresswell convinced SAF to apply for a grant to bring Money Mission to all Montana credit unions. If the grant is approved, the state's 57 credit unions will have the opportunity to implement the program and make it available to high school students state-wide.

Montana credit unions would be following in the footsteps of credit unions across six states that currently offer Money Mission: It's been a hit at Kauai High School in Hawaii. Student Tyler Schields said he is learning while having fun. "In this class we have to deal with stocks, essays, and research," Schields said. "It's really fun to go to a school-approved game site and play."