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With more benefits, will credit unions see an increase in members?

Credit unions continue to offer their members a range of benefits, and it could prove to work to their advantage in the future. Bankrate.com's 2013 Credit Union Checking Survey showed these institutions offer an increasing number of perks that could make them more attractive than traditional banks, but they need to prepare for a new influx of business with the right currency management tools and technology to continue to serve their clients well. 

The advantages of credit unions 
According to the Bankrate data, credit unions offer their clients more impressive free checking options than traditional banks. While 96 percent of the credit unions surveyed had some sort of free checking account option, the availability of standalone free checking stands at 72 percent. On the other hand, only 39 percent of banks offer this option, a huge decline from the 65 percent seen in 2010. 

"While banks have significantly scaled back free checking accounts, free checking remains the rule, rather than the exception, among credit unions," said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com. 

However, free checking options aren't the only advantages credit unions are offering their clients. Bankrate's survey revealed they are also charging lower ATM surcharges, when compared to traditional banks. While the average credit union ATM surcharge rose slightly to $2.29, the most common fee charged by banks is closer to $3. These higher fees can add up, especially for those individuals who use a lot of cash and need to stop by ATMs frequently, which could make credit unions a better option for their needs. 

There are other benefits that working with a credit union can provide. The survey showed 74 percent require no minimum balance, half have no minimum opening deposit and credit unions generally have lower non-sufficient funds fees than traditional banking operations. 

Providing the best service 
Because more people are recognizing the advantages credit unions can offer, more people may turn to them for financial services in the future. However, such enterprises need to ensure they are sufficiently prepared for an increase in business by having streamlined processes and offering the best service possible. Having check capture technology in place could prove to be an additional benefit to many prospective members interested in the latest technology and keep small credit unions on par with traditional banks, further increasing their competitive abilities and drawing in clients. 

03/26/2013