For many of us, college is where we really start experiencing financial freedom, and that’s about when we also start having real existential crises. How could you not? In college, there’s a lot of things that will seemingly last a lifetime. Friendships, career choices, STUDENT LOANS.
That’s a lot of pressure financially speaking. Without a decent amount of experience, it’s easy to get your finances in a mess. I mean, most people take out enormous student loans, or open up credit lines for the first time in college–and they just as easily destroy their credit. That’s a big oof worth avoiding.
Getting Off on the Right Foot
That’s where we can help. Or this article. Maybe. If you read it. The point is the best way to start a happy financial future in college is to start by making smart small decisions, and one of the best is to start banking with a credit union.
Now, there’s a litany of reasons for this. You’ll get better loan rates, credit unions will actively work with you to help you build credit or a savings account or both, and some even have wonderful assorted cookie platters. But, there’s another even more important reason to do so.
If you’re a college student and you join a credit union, you’re being a good person. No this isn’t flattery. It’s real. If you’re a college student and you join a bank, you might as well start a career popping birthday balloons at children’s birthday parties.
Let me explain after I show you all the logical reasons first.
The Logical Reasons to Join a Credit Union
Credit Unions have the one up on banks in several ways. Credit Unions:
- Offer better rates than banks
- Free checking (most likely)
- The profits go back to the members, not shareholders
- They work with their members to help build financial success
- Members vote on who runs the credit union
- Cookie platters
How can that help you as a student? Well, lots of ways. When I say Credit Unions have better rates, I’m referring to loan rates and savings rates mostly. You can get a cheaper loan with a Credit Union, and you can get higher returns on your savings.
If you’re just starting out financially, then getting a head start with this is so important. Spend less, save more, it’s a great mantra to follow.
Helping You Find Financial Success
They also work really hard to help their members find financial success. In fact, that’s a credit union’s mission statement. What that means is that they are really willing to work with you no matter your financial situation.
Don’t underestimate the power of this especially as a student. Life is expensive, rent, books, food, all cost money. They will help you make a plan to ensure you find success, and they can help you with short term low rate loans if need be. Are they you’re personal financial advisors? No, but most have CFPs, Certified Financial Planners to help you make good decisions. So say thank you every now and then.
This is actually also one of the primary reasons that really separates credit unions from banks. Credit unions are constantly working for their members, banks are structured to make money…which may or may not make them evil.
More on that below, for now, here’s some common concerns and questions a lot of people have about credit unions
I thought credit unions were localized. Can I only use their services where they are?
What? No. I mean, they don’t have as many branches as other banks so you can’t walk into one as much especially if you travel…but when was the last time you really needed to walk into a bank anyways? This is the 21st century. Use your phone for Pete’s sake.
BUT a lot of credit unions also participate in shared branch and ATM networks. Meaning you can access your account from a different credit union and even use ATMs in 7-Elevens without fees. You can also get 2 hotdogs for $2 while you’re there which translates to bonus savings. Can you get zero ATM fees AND 2 hotdogs for $2 at your bank? I thought not.
Is it hard to become a member of a credit union?
No, it’s easy. Well, I sort of take that back. Credit unions have membership requirements. Some are based around a specific industry (like military personnel) some are for unions, and some are for COLLEGES (if you see a credit union on your campus…you can most likely join it. PLUS, most credit unions are location-based, AND almost anyone can join a federal credit union nowadays. It’s definitely easier than every stats class on the planet.
Are credit unions prone to failure?
No. They aren’t as big as banks, but they’re quite stable. They are insured and all that good stuff.
But my mom banks at a credit union.
Because she’s a smart lady. You don’t have to be old to do it. Not that your mom is old. She probably looks good for her age. This isn’t a question by the way.
What do banks have that credit unions don’t?
Quite simply something we in the biz like to call “Enormous Marketing and R&D Budgets”. Banks are a business. They try to make money. Therefore they try to create products and services and a sheen to attract customers. Credit Unions take the profits they earn, and give them back to their members. So they don’t have the budgets to cover things in glitter. BUT they do offer the same exact services.
Can you get a credit card through a credit union?
It depends on the credit union, but generally yes.
Will they help me with my homework?
No. This is a dumb question.
Now onto why banks are evil
Why Banks Are Evil
One answer, money. They want to make money and as much as possible. They are a business after all. But banks seem to be a bit more prone towards bad practices to achieve riches than other banks. Take Wells Fargo for example.
In 2016 Wells Fargo signed over 3.5 million people up for fake accounts. Let me rephrase. Without consent, they signed people up for products and services they didn’t want in order to boost sales quotas.
They were fined a whopping $180 million for this however. The good thing in the same year they also reported a 5.6 billion dollar profit. So that they could still afford a few of the basics after it was all over.
That was sarcasm.
But it didn’t stop there. To date, Wells Fargo has been fined over $1 billion for bad practices.
That seems to be just another day in the banking world though *cough* *cough* 2008 *cough*.–make profits at the cost of the consumer. It’s here you see the benefits of a credit union’s structure and why joining one is probably, I don’t know, maybe actually a good thing to do.
Unless you like stuffing the pockets of people who could afford to buy the entire state of Kentucky, then sure, do that.
To be clear, I’m not telling you what to do. You’re your own person.
So if you’re a student, you should really consider joining a credit union. Not only is it probably a really good financial move, but it also helps support a financial system that’s focused on helping out consumers, and not just trying to garble up as
Evan is a personal finance writer, content manager, and comedian based out of Los Angeles, CA. He’s covered credit cards, personal loans, new advances in fintech and more.