Low interest loans & free checking lures many to credit unions - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Low interest loans & free checking luring consumers to credit unions

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Many big banks are saying goodbye to free checking. That's leading to millions of Americans making the switch to credit unions, most of which still have free checking accounts and are also known for often offering lower interest rates on car loans.

Fans of credit unions point to these perks:

  • 74% of them have no minimum balance requirement
  • Fewer than 5% charge fees for debit cards and transactions
  • 30% don't charge to use other banks' ATMs.

"A lot of them belong to much larger ATM networks so they can literally open-up thousands of ATMs that their members can use around the country," said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at BankRate.com.

The National Association of Federal Credit Unions says consumers are catching-on to the credit union craze. Membership jumped from 84 million in 2004 to more than 93 million last year.

Critics point out, though, that you need to read the fine print before you make the switch. Overdraft fees can vary widely among credit unions, according to BankRate.com. And if it's a small credit union, don't count on them to provide you with a banking app for your smartphone or to have 24 hour customer service.

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