Maintaining Financial Health
Credit Unions Step Up Their Game
For many people, the COVID-19 global pandemic tested their financial health as well as their physical health: economic slowdowns, Paycheck Protection Plans and more impacted America’s pocketbooks. Many turned to local credit unions for advice and security.
We spoke with representatives of Barksdale Federal Credit Union and a team of employees from ANECA Federal Credit Unions about the impact the pandemic had on personal finances this year, and how credit unions were able to help.
Question: I’ve heard that many people turned to local small businesses in the retail arena during the COVID-19 pandemic. Did something similar happen in banking? Did more people turn to local credit unions vs. large, corporate banks during the pandemic?
Barksdale Federal Credit Union: Particularly with the PPP loan program, I believe the community banks and credit unions were there for the local businesses. We were able to help our small businesses get the help they needed to complete the proper applications and get the applications submitted in a timely manner so they could get their funding.
ANECA: Absolutely. When the Payroll Protection Program loans started, some larger banks did not do them or were slow to do them. Local credit unions were happy to help. We began collecting paperwork and information from member businesses when we found out what was about to happen and were able to put in their applications immediately. Many businesses that came to us for help with PPP had never worked with a credit union before and moved their accounts to ANECA.
Q: This year saw stimulus checks, expanded unemployment benefits and extremely low interest rates. What impact did these things have on people’s personal banking?
BFCU: We have seen checking account and savings account balances increase with the stimulus funds. Of course, many people had to take advantage of payment deferral programs that financial institutions were offering to help with unemployment. Our mortgage department has been extremely busy with the low-interest rates this year. We are more than doubling last year’s totals.
ANECA: Interestingly, credit card debt is going down. People are getting serious about their finances and their financial futures. Yes, you do have those who spent it quickly, but for the most part, people are saving what they can so they can have a safety net if this or something worse happens in the future.
Credit card debt has gone down since the pandemic nationally. This has tremendous policy implications that many people are not acknowledging or understanding – will more stimulus money be spent to help the economy, or will it be saved and keep things standing still?
Q: What are the advantages of using a credit union versus a traditional bank?
BFCU: Credit unions are member-owned, so the board of directors are very responsive to member service requests and complaints. Our focus is on serving the members and offering the best rates we can afford to pay on deposits while offering the lowest rates we can afford on loans. We do this while keeping the financial stability of the credit union in mind at all times. We want the members to know that their money is safe at Barksdale Federal Credit Union.
ANECA: Generally, we are more personable: “People helping people.” We have lower loan rates and higher deposit rates. Credit unions are nonprofit organizations, where banks are not. And our fees are generally kept low. Q: Do you have special loans or other programs members can take advantage of right now?
BFCU: We recently completed our motion promotion summer car loan special, but we still have great rates and are experiencing strong demand. We have a Hurricane Loan for any quick money needed during this disastrous hurricane season. Many of our members were affected by Hurricane Laura and needed money fast for generators, tarps and other provisions.
ANECA: We have the Anytime Auto Loan. We offer a great auto loan rates as low as 2.74 percent, plus no payments for 90 days. We can also refinance your current vehicle with this same program. That can potentially give you a reduced rate and the same no payments for 90 days.
We also have Skip-a-Pay. Immediately when the shut down started, ANECA offered members with loans a two-month Skip-a- Pay. We offer this again starting in October every year for skipping your December payment to put those funds toward holiday or other purchases.
We also have Holiday Loans. And we do our best to give every member the lowest rates possible for borrowing and helping them however we can financially.
Q: Do you have new products or services members, or potential members, might not be familiar with?
BFCU: The product isn’t new, but we have seen strong demand for our debit card that pays rewards for purchases. The debit card reward points can also be combined with the Barksdale Federal credit card reward points. Reward points are redeemable for gift cards, cash back, travel and more. We have been working to improve our online presence with online account opening and online lending, and that has been successful.
ANECA: We currently have a Rewards Point Program for ANECA Debit Cards and will have a similar program for our ANECA Credit Cards the first of 2021. Every time you spend money with your cards you earn rewards points.
We offer financial counseling. Most ANECA employees are Certified Financial Counselors. You can contact one of our member service representatives today, and they will evaluate your current expenses to see if ANECA can save you money and put you on a plan to reaching your financial goals.
We also like to have fun events for our members. We are bringing back Fantastic Fridays in November, where we like to offer our members something free. Every December, we host Photos with Santa for members that always gets a big turnout. We have booked Dec. 5 this year and will have a few changes but plan to have a fun event.
Q: Do you have banking/personal financial lessons to share with people from experience with COVID-19 and the economic slowdown that came with it?
BFCU: Do your best to build a reserve for emergencies like this pandemic. And also, shop around for financial institutions that did their best to maintain continued access to your accounts during the “shutdown.” We feel that Barksdale Federal Credit Union did the best we could serving our members. Our employees were real financial service heroes who kept courageously serving our members on the frontline for the last six months to be sure our members’ financial needs were met.
ANECA: Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and that’s why for so many people this has been so scary. It’s never a bad idea to save some money in case of emergencies like this one. We recommend first that everyone have an emergency fund. Start with saving $1,000 and then have a goal of saving six months of living expenses.