We wrote about why Mr. PoP and I combined our finances when we got married, but we actually didn’t end up closing many accounts to do so. Why? Well, basically Mr. PoP’s primary financial institution was a credit union, and mine was a big nationwide bank, so all we did was make the accounts joint at both institutions and now we have the benefits of a smallish credit union, and a big nationwide bank. We’ve already written a little about the nationwide bank that we use, Wells Fargo, so here’s the dish on what we have at our credit union.
Our Credit Union – PSECU
PSECU actually stands for Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union. However, it’s pretty easy to join these days if you have any remote connection to the state of Pennsylvania. You can either be a family member of an existing PSECU member, or you need to have an affiliation with one of the “affiliated partners” which you can check your eligibility here. Basically this includes most alumni who graduated college in Pennsylvania, anyone who lives within a Pennsylvania school district, etc. It’s pretty broad – so if you have any family connection to the state of Pennsylvania, there’s probably a way that you can apply for membership. The application fee for membership is $1, and there is a $5 minimum balance that is always held in your “regular shares” account. You get this $5 back if you ever close your account, but not the $1 application fee.
Across the board, fees at PSECU are pretty reasonable. Wire fees are typically less than what the standard fee is at Wells Fargo (though unlike Wells Fargo, I’ve never been able to have any fees waived because we’re such “good customers”). It’s not a place where they are going to nickel and dime you. That being said, it’s no “mom and pop” shop, either. They have fully integrated online banking services as well as apps for the iPhone and iPad just like any other big bank would.
The upsides to having a credit union like PSECU is that their savings account rates are generally much higher than the typical rates at the “big banks”. (Right now rates are so low everywhere, it’s a bit of a moot point at the moment.) And I’ve been told that sometimes it can be easier to qualify for better mortgage rates, however PSECU doesn’t currently finance mortgages outside of Pennsylvania, so we weren’t able to use them for our recent property purchases.
So What Do We Have At PSECU?
All the accounts at PSECU come with little sub-accounts that they call “shares”. We have all the default shares, though you can customize them as well.
Regular Shares – This is the account that must always maintain the $5 minimum balance.
Checking Shares - Our basic checking account. Mr. PoP’s payroll checks get direct deposited into this account. Comes with a Visa check card, like any other bank, along with all the things you would expect from any big bank – online banking, free bill pay, etc. And since PSECU doesn’t have many ATMs around the country, they actually reimburse ATM fees that other banks charge to use their ATMS (up to $20 per month when you’ve got direct deposit).
Vacation/Christmas Shares - These are actually two separate accounts that are basic savings accounts. We use these as holding accounts if we are saving up for something specific so we don’t have to mix the funds. The interest rate in this account is usually slightly lower than that in the Money Market Shares, but (again) with interest rates this low, who’s keeping track?
Like I shared with MoMoneyMoHouses when she was asking if we had “fun money” funds, we keep one of these accounts as Mr. PoP’s “rolex fund”. It’s a holding place for what’s left unspent of his Christmas and birthday gift money so he can spend when he wants to rather than just being restricted to the major holidays.
Money Market Shares – A slightly higher interest rate money market savings account. Before the Fed lowered the interest rates to the current levels, the interest rate in these money market shares was competitive with most other banks I could find.
Visa Credit Card – This is a holdover from when Mr. PoP was first establishing his credit. It gets no rewards, and has a pretty high interest rate, so we keep it open just for emergencies and to keep our “available credit” looking plump for the credit reports.
Car Loan – We got our car loan through PSECU – it was super easy to apply and get approved, and the rate at the time was pretty competitive. They also knocked off an extra 0.25% since we have automatic payments set up from our PSECU checking account. We could probably refinance this into a lower credit rate, but doing so requires drawing an additional $1000 in loan out on the car, which we’re not sure we’d like to do at the moment.
Do you have a credit union? If so, which one? What types of services do you look for in a credit union?