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Expert CUs prepaid cards better than Wal-Marts

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NEW YORK (2/23/09)--An article on a popular AOL website urges consumers to avoid Wal-Mart's "lower-fee" prepaid debit card and check out the cards at credit unions first. The article, written by Zac Bissonnette for on Wallet Pop (Feb. 18), points out that Wal-Mart is slashing the fees on its reloadable pre-paid debit cards. However, consumer advocate Remar Sutton, a former Credit Union Magazine columnist on auto lending and author of Don't Get Taken Every Time, noted that while using the Wal-Mart card is better than check cashing "rip off rates, consumers are still paying a monthly fee to use the card, plus other fees. "Get a free checking account and a free debit card at a credit union before locking yourself into the Wal-Mart card," Sutton told Wallet Pop. "These days, virtually anybody can join a credit union, and virtually all credit unions offer free checking and debit cards."

Michigan family thwarts CUs branch plans

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (2/23/09)--The Grand Rapids Board of Zoning Thursday upheld an earlier decision by the city Planning Commission to reject a credit union's proposal to build a branch because of concerns about traffic congestion. Mike Buwalda and his family opposed Consumer CU's proposal to build the branch, which would have been located behind their home. Three of his school-aged children canvassed the neighborhood and collected more than 150 signatures opposing building on the site ( Feb. 20). The credit union had hoped to build a branch with three drive-thru teller lanes and two ATM lanes through the back of its site. Opponents argued that a bank branch across the street from Breton Village could create too much traffic congestion in a neighborhood already served by seven bank branches. They also said the drive-thru lanes would create too much noise and headlight glare behind their homes. The zoning board voted 8-0 to uphold the Planning Commission's decision to deny the branch. The credit union, which is headquartered in Kalamazoo and has $262.8 million in assets, told the newspaper it would not submit new plans for the site or appeal the board's ruling, but would "do what's right for the community and the neighborhood."

Young thieves siphon 62000 from CUs ATM

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ARLINGTON, Wash. (2/23/09)--Police are investigating a series of thefts at a Washington state credit union's ATM where thieves tricked the machine's software program into doubling the funds they withdrew, while giving credit to only half the amount. The machine, at Boeing Employees CU (BECU) in Smokey Point, Wash., dispensed nearly $62,000 over several months (The Seattle Times Feb. 13). Police used surveillance cameras at the ATM and records of the withdrawals to break the case. One 17-year old girl, who was caught on camera taking $16,000 out of the ATM, confessed and led police to other suspects, including her 18-year-old boyfriend who withdrew about $10,000. The thieves tricked the software program so that the machine did not recognize it had dispensed money and instead repeated the withdrawals. A $100 withdrawal would net the thieves $200. They used a combination of personal accounts and prepaid debit cards to access the funds. The credit union said the machine has been fixed.

500000 donation to fund Polish studies chair at Columbia

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. (2/23/09)--Columbia University will get a new chair of Polish Studies position, thanks to Polish & Slavic FCU (PSFCU), which Friday donated the final $181,000 toward the position's creation. That brings the total donated by the Brooklyn, N.Y.,-based, $1.89 billion asset credit union toward the program to $500,000 the past five years. Roughly $3 was raised to create the program. The program will provide the first Polish Studies curriculum at an Ivy League School, according to the credit union (PR Newswire Feb. 20). It will promote cultural and scientific achievements of Poland and the Polish people, and will work with the Council of Polish Supplementary Schools to help administer Polish Language Regents exams, taken annually by students attending the ethnic schools. PSFCU is the largest ethnic credit union in the U.S. and was one of the first to sign onto the project, with an initial donation of $20,000. "This is a prime example of what we like to call the 'credit union difference,'" said PSFCU CEO Bogdan Chmielewski. "We are deeply entwined in the lives of Polish-Americans, and we feel a strong responsibility to improving and celebrating their lives and heritage. We truly feel we make a difference in the lives of our members, and that's something no bank can do."

CUs participate in America Saves Military Saves Week

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WASHINGTON (2/23/09)--Credit unions and the rest of the nation are celebrating smart savings habits this week. The third annual America Saves Week and Military Saves Week kicked off Sunday and will focus on savings efforts through March 1. Today at noon EST, America Saves and the American Savings Education Council will release a survey of American's savings habits and progress. It will tell how Americans are responding to the recession, how they are managing everyday, emergency and retirement savings; how savings behavior has changed since last year's survey; progress on debt payments and key savings habits; and attitudes toward various savings practices and the use of tax refunds. America Saves Week is part of the America Saves campaign managed by the Consumer Federation of America. Last year, more than 75,000 people attended more than 1,800 events promoting savings during the week. Military Saves is a Department of Defense-level campaign, focusing on encouraging military members and their families to save every month to provide for their immediate and long-term goals. This year, the campaign has expanded to include Military Youth Saves program, geared to youth. The cornerstone of the Military Saves campaign is the Saver Pledge, a commitment to exercise good financial habits and encourage others to do the same. Savers who enroll online receive electronic newsletters and e-wealth coach advice (U.S. Fed News Feb. 17) . More than 80 defense credit unions and military banks have participated in activities in the past. Credit unions are participating in the events. For example, Aberdeen Proving Ground FCU, Aberdeen, Md., is a partner in Maryland Saves, a local savings campaign. It runs through March 7 and supports the America Saves and Military Saves national campaigns that encourage individuals and families to build wealth through savings. In the Maryland Saves campaign, participants will automatically be entered in a drawing to win one of two $250 12-month certificates, the credit union announced.

Shot fired in robbery at Heartland CU

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VERONA, Wis. (2/23/09)--A suspect fired a handgun while robbing the Verona, Wis., branch of Heartland CU Thursday, but no one was injured, police said. The suspect--a hooded man in his late 20s--fired one shot during the robbery (Wisconsin State Journal Feb. 20). The suspect fled the robbery scene on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash. Police said a vehicle driven by another man could be involved. The robbery resulted in the Verona School District locking down all of it schools and barring outside visitors. Heartland CU, based in Madison, Wis., has $146.7 million assets.

Vermont offers CUNAs certified fin counselor training

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SOUTH BURLINGON, Vt. ( 2/23/09)--The Association of Vermont Credit Unions (AVCU) Social Responsibility Committee informed credit union manager/CEOs in the state last week about a new program that gives every Vermont credit union the opportunity to have a Certified Credit Union Financial Counselor (CCUFC) on staff within a year. The Vermont CCUFC Training Program, using the Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) Center for Personal Development resources, offers the opportunity free to every AVCU credit union as a membership benefit, provided the credit union CEO signs an enrollment form that commits at least one full-time employee to the program. Credit unions with sufficient resources can enroll additional employees to strengthen the core study group and magnify the positive effects and benefits of the program, AVCU said. The program will utilize CUNA’s self-study modules as its training base, supplemented by biweekly conference calls facilitated by project leader Ken King, an instructor at CUNA’s Certified Financial Counselor Schools. King also will lead a one-day conference in Vermont this fall to provide face-to-face counseling skills for students. The plan is for students to achieve their CCUFC designation within a year of the program’s planned April inception. “We are living in unprecedented economic times, and many people are worried about what the future holds,” said AVCU President Joe Bergeron. “We already have certified financial counselors at some of our credit unions, but this program will extend those much needed skills statewide to more than 280,000 Vermont credit union members. “It is our fervent hope that by making this program available to our credit unions at no cost, and without the expense and time needed to attend out-of-state schools, we can immediately help them provide solid financial counseling that will calm the fears of thousands of Vermont consumers,” he added.

IChicago TribuneI Dont overlook CUs for financing

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CHICAGO (2/23/09)--Consumers looking for hard-to-find credit in today’s economy should make sure not to overlook credit unions as a source for financing, according to a Chicago Tribune column Friday. The item also appeared in Sunday's Los Angeles Times. For those among the 90 million people who belong to a credit union, there may be mortgage money available for loans, columnist Lew Sichelman wrote. “Credit unions tend to be overlooked by borrowers, largely because they don’t employ a stable of loan officers, and real estate agents rarely recommend them to their clients,” Sichelman wrote. “In other instances, many members are simply unaware that their credit unions are in the mortgage business.” He also mentions how consumers can use the credit union locator to find credit unions. See the link.

Filene calls for innovators on economic stimulus initiative

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MADISON, Wis. (2/23/09)--Filene Research Institute is asking credit union volunteers to get involved with Filene’s Future Focus initiative, a 60- to 90-day review and innovation process focusing on the national economic stimulus package. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is intended to stimulate the U.S. economy in the wake of the economic downturn brought about by the subprime mortgage crisis and the resulting credit crunch. The bill includes federal tax cuts, expansion of unemployment benefits and other social welfare provisions, and domestic spending in education, health care, and infrastructure, including the energy sector. “Innovation is an inclusive process,” said Denise Gabel, Filene chief innovation officer. “Who knows, Filene may get a dozen or three thousand responses. Either way, credit unions and consumers need solutions now.” To deliver the anticipated outputs to policy-makers and credit union decision-makers, help is needed in four areas:
* Discovery--Identifying key areas like housing, lending and energy; * Ideas--Generating new solutions; * Shaping--Testing and narrowing the best ideas; and * Implementation--Bringing new solutions to market.
For more information, use the link.

CU System briefs (02/20/2009)

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* DEARBORN, Mich. (2/23/09)--Dearborn police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were looking for a man who left a package inside a branch of Dearborn Financial CU during a robbery Thursday morning. The robber said the package contained a bomb. However, it contained no explosive materials, said police. Authorities evacuated the area while the package was dismantled. Police believe the suspect left the package to help secure his escape after the robbery, which occurred after 9:45 a.m. He fled with an undisclosed amount of cash (The Detroit News Feb. 19) … * PANAMA CITY, Fla. (2/23/09)--Tyndall FCU announced a casting call for its new television campaign. The deadline is today for submitting photos. The $884.4 million asset, Panama City-based credit union invited members and employees of all ages to submit photos for the pre-selection casting process. It's looking for members to act as a military family; older retired couple; three recent college graduates; a single male or female who is in the 20s; a family with three or four children; an intergenerational family; a dock or boat worker; a mid-40s male; and early 30s professionals … * DUBLIN, Ohio (2/23/09)--The Ohio Credit Union Foundation has awarded a $5,000 disaster relief grant to the World Council of Credit Unions for its Disaster Relief Fund for Australia, where a number of credit unions' employees and members lost their homes to brushfires last month (eLumination Newsletter Feb. 18). The fires killed at least 200 people, destroyed at least 7,000 homes and at least a dozen villages … * GORHAM, Maine (2/23/09)--Maine credit unions raised more than $25,000 in the 15th Annual Dr. Noel Paradise Memorial Swish-Out Childhood Cancer Challenge. The event, presented and coordinated by Maine's credit unions, is named for the late father of Jon Paradise, governmental and public affairs manager at the Maine Credit Union League. It was the second straight year the event has raised more than $25,000. Since its inception in 1994, it has raised more than $148,000 for the Maine Children's Cancer Program. The basketball tournament attracted 32 co-ed teams. University CU was one of several credit unions that participated. The team was led by Captain Joe Gervais, center, executive vice president. (Photo provided by the Maine Credit Union League) … * PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. (2/23/09)--School budget cuts have played up the importance of financial education programs, says Power Financial
Click to view larger image Click for larger view
CU, a Pembroke Pines, Fla.-based credit union that has joined forces with the city's Chapel Trail Elementary to hold monthly Gator Teller Days during lunchtime. Here, students line up to make their monthly deposits at a mock teller station. A student teller, assisted by a credit union employee, takes the deposits. "By giving children these real-life financial experiences at an early age, we hope to educate them about money management and the responsibilities that come with it," said Allan M. Prindle, president/CEO of the $480 million asset credit union. "We believe that it's especially imperative now as our local public schools are facing severe budget cuts--they will rely on members of the community and we're glad to offer our assistance," he said. (Photo provided by Power Financial CU) … * ALBANY, N.Y. (2/23/09)--Philip Faller of Clifton, N.J., has joined the Credit Union Association of New York as a management consultant. He will work with credit unions in Queens, Manhattan, Westchester and Long Island on strategy development and operations, and act as a liaison between credit unions and the association. Faller previously was a senior business consultant for Members United Corporate FCU. Before that, he was a regional sales executive for Lorimac Corp., where he worked with credit unions to develop marketing plans for mortgage support services …

New WOCCU site matches savings combats poverty

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MADISON, Wis. (2/23/09)--The World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) has launched to give the public an opportunity to combat global poverty in a new way by matching the savings deposits of the poor in the developing world.
Celia Ortiz Ramos, a housewife and mother of one, is saving to repair drafty wooden walls in her kitchen. Givers will help her achieve the goal sooner by providing a savings match. (Photo provided by World Council of Credit Unions)
Despite the critical need for personal savings, the poor in developing countries are more likely to have access to loans than to basic savings accounts, WOCCU said. As tough economic times hit the developed world, foreign aid to developing countries is declining, fewer immigrants can afford to send funds home and employment opportunities are disappearing. With the costs of living continuing to rise, the need for reliable savings becomes increasingly vital, WOCCU said. People living in poverty are desperate to find affordable and accessible alternatives to cover necessary expenses like basic home repair, their children’s education, start-up expenses for a microbusiness and healthcare. A formal credit union savings account and a match incentive help working poor families develop regular savings habits, build assets and attain financial independence, WOCCU said. “Savings are about building wealth,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. “Families are able to and want to build their savings because that provides them with a way to finance their own growth.” builds on WOCCU's global development programs. The first group of Savers is from rural Mexico, where WOCCU is helping credit unions deliver financial services by motorcycle, bus, boat and foot, directly to marginalized communities. Here's how works:
* Savers open their first savings account at one of WOCCU's partner credit unions in a developing country--currently rural Mexico. Savers establish a six-month savings goal and commit to make regular monthly deposits. * Givers go to, choose which types of savings accounts they want to match (housing, education, microbusiness or health) and make a donation. * At the end of the saving period, savers receive the givers’ match on their savings principal, realize their savings goal and become members of a credit union that will help them reach their financial goals in the future.
As the effects of the economic downturn ripple across borders, givers at create a counter-effort. Givers’ generosity allows the poor to lift themselves out of poverty through their own efforts and helps them get on a solid path for future, WOCCU said. As grows, WOCCU will expand the program to reach more people, communities and countries through its global network of credit unions. Participants can spread the word through their credit union, service groups, social networks, friends and family. Credit unions are not being asked to give to the program, but rather to promote it, WOCCU said. Start-up money for the program is coming from private donations to WOCCU’s foundation. For more information and to make a donation, use the link.