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CUNA Fees Report; CUs Continue As The Better Deal

MADISON, Wis. (5/16/13)--Credit unions continue to be the smarter choice, fee-wise, for consumers, according to the newly released Credit Union National Association 2013-2014 CUNA Fees Report.

The report confirmed the trend that credit unions, compared to banks, are still the better buy, said Jon Haller, CUNA's director of corporate and market research and co-author of the report.

"Compared to banks, credit unions have fared very well," he said. "On any fee we studied, credit unions are still less likely to charge a fee than banks, and if they do charge, that fee is still lower.  It's  great that they continued to do so," Haller said.

"For the majority of credit unions, fees play a pretty important role in maintaining financial stability," he said. "Fees represent 12% of gross income. Credit unions are trying to balance and maintain certain rates that ensure financial soundness while retaining current members and attracting new ones."

The report, part of CUNA's operational research, assists credit union leaders with difficult business decisions about what types of fees and amounts to charge. The data is by asset category and geographic region and covers a range of services.

As a percent of total income, noninterest income, which includes fees, grew from an average 20.1%  in 2009 to 28.6% in 2012. That income is critical to a healthy bottom line, the report notes. Without fees and other income, credit unions' return on assets would be substantially negative by 61 basis points, say CUNA's economists.

A comparison of credit union checking account fees with bank checking account fees showed no contest: 82% of credit unions offered free checking in 2012, similar to numbers in CUNA's previous fees reports.  Banks, however, are dropping free checking. In 2012, just 39% of banks offered free checking--a drop from 75% in 2010.

That bodes well for credit unions' future. The difference opens doors for credit unions to attract new members, Haller said.

Other fees and the percentage of fee income they generate included:

The report is available both in a PDF format and print version. For more information use the links or call CUNA's Customer Service at 800-356-9655 (press 3) or e-mail

  • Nonsufficient funds and overdraft fees, 34%--the largest segment;
  • ATM and debit card fees, 12%;
  • First mortgages, 8%;
  • Other loans, which include application and late fees, as well as fees for member business, personal, agricultural, auto and student loans, 8%;
  • Credit card fees, 6%; and
  • Other, 17%.

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