CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel addressed several credit union issues in a Oct. 11 appearance on C-SPAN. Hampel told host John McArdle that while credit unions have received much attention following the recent announcements that Bank of America and other large banks would charge customers for debit cards or checking accounts, credit unions "have always offered a better deal," including lower loan rates and higher deposit rates, and fewer and lower fees.
McArdle noted a recent Baltimore Sun article as one of many venues where anti-bank, pro-credit union sentiments are being covered. The article underscores the convenience and broad array of services available through credit union membership.
Hampel warned that there are certain "myths" about credit union membership that sometimes keep consumers from pursuing that option. For instance, credit union fields of membership were once job-based, but now are often extended to residents in communities.
Hampel estimated that every American could easily qualify as a member for two or three credit unions, and recommended that any potential members begin their search for their new credit union at CUNA's consumer website,
There's been a "huge increase in interest" in credit unions over the last few weeks due to stories on high bank fees, and while switching accounts can be a hassle, credit unions offer so-called "switch kits" to help potential members with the paperwork needed to leave their bank, Hampel said.
He noted that most credit union members have access to 28,000 surcharge-free ATMs nationwide, and a caller to the show wanted to make sure listeners knew about the convenience that credit union shared branching networks provide.
"The whole range of typical consumer financial services," including ATM use, debit and credit cards, investments, and mortgages, are available to "virtually all credit union members," Hampel said.
In response to another caller, Hampel underscored that the credit union tax status is tied to their not-for—profit, cooperative structure and that all profits are returned to members in the form of better fees and rates or retained as capital. Credit unions, he said, don't have stockholders to pay.
Hampel also addressed caller questions on credit unions' work with businesses, and noted the drive by CUNA, the leagues and credit unions to increase the current member business lending (MBL) cap to help the economy and create jobs.
The MBL cap will also be addressed during a House Financial Services subcommittee on financial institutions and consumer credit hearing on Oct. 12.
To see the complete C-SPAN interview with CUNA's Bill Hampel,