Four Credit Union Benefits Worth Scooping Up

As not-for-profit financial cooperatives, credit unions in Missouri excel at giving back to their members. Not only do they provide benefits in the form of lower interests rates and friendlier service, they also provide their members with a number of other benefits you may not realize exist.

“Credit unions in Missouri value their members,” says Don Cohenour, president/CEO of the Missouri Credit Union Association. “College scholarships and product discounts benefit members. It’s another way to remind them that the credit unions belong to them and are constantly working on their behalf.”

Since these options vary widely from credit union to credit union, consumers may not know exactly what benefits their financial institution offers. When in doubt, members (and potential members) are encouraged to check the membership statement, the credit union’s website or just ask a member service representative.

Here are four of the major ways that credit unions often give back to their members.

College Scholarships

A number of credit unions in Missouri offer scholarships to high school students. Recipients are often judged on academic performance and community service. The majority of credit unions require that applicants are members or related to members of the credit union, but each program is different.

For example, United Consumers Credit Union (Mexico) requires a letter of recommendation along with an essay and application from scholarship applicants.  Century Credit Union (St. Louis) asks for a parent or guardian sign off on the application. Both credit unions offer a $500 and $1000 scholarship; however, UCCU’s scholarships are available for students entering college (17 years or older) and CCU has separate scholarship categories for students ages 13-15 and 16-18.

Many credit unions have a long history of awarding scholarships. Arsenal Credit Union (Arnold) has provided approximately $49,950 to 59 St. Louis-area students in 17 years. CU Community Credit Union (Springfield) started its scholarship program in 1996, helping 17 Springfield-area high school seniors go to college.

Providing Product Discounts

Credit union members can tap the many product discounts offered through Invest in America. This national rewards program provides discounts on well-known products such as GMC cars, Dell computers and Sprint mobile services.

“These are discounts from American companies to support American workers,” said Lisa Rizk, vice president of membership enhancements and national sales at CU Solutions Group.

Discounts are available at LoveMyCreditUnion.org. You can earn cash back for purchases from 1,500 online and in-store retailers.

Several credit unions, including Electro Saving Credit Union (Maryland Heights) offer discounted amusement park tickets.

Financial Literacy Outreach

Helping consumers build strong financial habits and knowledge is a priority for credit unions. Credit unions like St. Louis Community Credit Union (St. Louis) offer free educational seminars and workshops to both members and nonmembers. SLCCU partners with a number of community organizations to have experts teach classes on a variety of financial issues.  Free online financial educational resources are also available, including the EverFi Financial Literacy Program.

Credit unions across the state participate in Financial Literacy Fairs, providing hands-on experiences to high school students about budgeting and assessing needs versus wants. Classroom presentations also bring financial education to all ages.

Returning Money to Members

On average, every credit union member in the United States had a direct financial benefit of $62 in 2012 – just by being a member. Many credit unions in Missouri also give actual cash back to their members. Credit unions in Missouri returned back $7.185 million to members in 2012.

Last year, Educational Community Credit Union (Springfield) returned $16,716.35 to its 7,304 members. Anheuser-Busch Employees’ Credit Union (St. Louis) provided $1.2 million back to its 69,700 members. In Macon, the 2,364 members of Horizon Credit Union received $14,033 in cash back. Serving 169,631 members, CommunityAmerica Credit Union (Kansas City) provided $5 million back to members.

“As a member-owned institution, members reap the benefits of our success,” said Dennis Pierce, CEO of CommunityAmerica Credit Union. “We consistently demonstrate this commitment throughout the year by offering competitive rates and exceptional products and services to help members achieve their financial dreams.”

With member benefits such as these, it makes sense that 1.4 million Missourians choose a credit union.

The benefits provided by credit unions stretch across the country. Bankrate.com offers even more examples and information. To find a credit union, visit A Smarter Choice.

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