1 Credit Unions Are Great, Until They're Not | The Billfold

Credit Unions Are Great, Until They’re Not


People love credit unions. There was a time when I loved my credit union, too! They gave me a great rate when I bought my car, and then another great rate when I refinanced my car. The people who worked there were nice and wonderful, and I could walk there from my house.

 And perhaps best of all, when I lost my debit card (which was/is somewhat often), I could just pop into the credit union and get a new one AND a lollipop.

There are only a handful of ATMs in the city that I can use without fees, and only four that I can use to deposit checks, but two of those are RESTRICTED ACCESS and I can’t actually use them. Which leaves:  the one in a 7-11 near the Port Authority (NOPE) and the other one. The other one is, conveniently, close to the office! But “convenient” is also a total misnomer, because accessing the ATM  involves :

1. Going to Madison Square Garden (terrible).
2. Standing in line in the lobby of an office building there so I can talk to the dude at the desk.
3. Being told I’m in the wrong line and waiting for the wrong dude.
4. Getting in the right line, waiting for the right dude.
5. Signing in with the dude, giving the dude my driver’s license (add in another 2 minutes here for me to find my driver’s license).
6. Getting escorted to the elevator bay.
7. Taking the elevator up the twelfth floor.
8. Walking down a long, dark hallway.
9. Using my temporary pass to open a set of doors.
10. Continuing down a longer, darker hallway. There are never any humans in this hallway. Or the other hallway. Where are the humans? What is going on?
11. Approaching the ATM.
12. Making my deposit, and having it rejected. Trying again, and having it work. (This has happened four times. WHY?)
13. And then doing it allllllllll in reverse.

This is cumbersome. It is annoying, and on days like today when THE ATM IS OUT OF ORDER, it will not stand. I passed no fewer than four big banks on my way back to the office. Big banks with ATMs and branches all over the city and the world. I’m going to join one of them next week.


Photo Credit: flickr/thedarkthing


22 Comments / Post A Comment

nzle (#291)

Noooo! I was hoping you’d tell me all the reasons why leaving B of A to join the LES People’s Credit Union is a good idea!

Oh it’s probably the best idea! UNTIL YOU MOVE ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

Jobeans (#227)

@Logan Sachon Why not just join a different credit union closer to where you live currently?

@Logan Sachon You should’ve mentioned that in the post! I was trying to figure out why, if you could walk there from your house, you made all your deposits in some weird Madison Square Garden subbasement?

Rebecca (#306)

@nzle LES People’s is GREAT! There are free ATMs at…almost every McDonald’s in the city (except not the one across from Greenwood Cemetery so plan ahead if you are short on cash and going to a cemetery?).

acid burn (#113)

@Logan Sachon No, then you just find another CU that’s in the CU network and use their ATMs instead! Call yours and see what the deal is, because I don’t understand how it works but I know that it’s a thing and that’s how I use my Washington CU account even though I live in Oregon now. You probably have more ATM options than you know in your city as well because of this! You can also look at this but you should call your bank for more specific information.

maebyfunke (#292)

I’m pretty sure you use the credit union in my office building, where I am sitting and not working right now! It is insanely hard to get in here if you don’t have a building ID. All my coworkers use the credit union but I don’t because I use B of A that’s two feet from here and I don’t really understand the difference? (Which may be a problem in and of itself)

I like…Bank of America. Which I think people will think I’m satanic or something for saying that. I used to have a checking account at a very small (only in my home state) bank and then I moved across country and everything was awful. My card would get rejected at stores because the readers couldn’t recognize the bank and huge, huge ATM fees. I got an “online-only” checking account at Bank of America last summer and it’s been great. As long as I never go into a Bank of America building and use a teller there is no monthly fee. Everything is direct deposit and now I only get cash from the cash-back at the grocery store. No fees. Ever. I can even send checks to people and places from my online account. I love it.

Tatiana (#194)

This makes me so sad! I work for a credit union on the west coast and we work really hard to make sure our members are able to access their accounts or deposit their checks from anywhere (with online check deposit or mobile deposit), but I know not all credit unions are as big as the one I work for and can’t afford or don’t have the resources to offer these services… but hopefully yours will soon! Thanks for sharing this, hopefully it’ll inspire positive change with east coast CUs.

Try to find a smaller local bank that reimburses ATM fees? I live in Nashville so I don’t know about NYC, but we have at least two or three local banks here that reimburse fees so you can just use whatever ATM your heart desires. Compromise!

sony_b (#225)

You just need a better/closer CU. Mine (SF bay area) doesn’t have any branches within 25 miles of where I live, but it’s on a big network that means I can use most CU ATMs fee free, and there are three ATMs that will take deposits within walking distance of my apartment. Also, I get cash back all the time at the grocery store.

I’m kind of surprised there’s a CU in NYC that doesn’t have reciprocal agreements with other CUs.

mouthalmighty (#165)

Nope, still fairly enamored with my CC, but I’m another Bay Area folk. Maybe you should just move? Kidding.

I use Schwab which allows me to use any ATM (any!) and get reimbursed for all fees at the end of each month. It has an iPhone app that allows me to deposit checks under $1000 by phone, otherwise I have to mail in deposits. My boyfriend uses a local credit union that lets him use any ATM with no fees and he can deposit checks with no limit by phone.

There are better banks/credit unions out there. Just keep looking.

I’ve got my main account at PNC and another at a small local bank in my hometown (not a credit union), and have no complaints with either. PNC actually offers some pretty cool features with their basic, free checking account, though I’m not sure what their national reach is like.

TunaSushi (#313)

have you seen Louis C.K.’s bit about the reason he’s always so broke is because it’s so easy to access his cash, via ATMs? It’s a far cry from back in the day when one had to actually go to the bank on a Friday to have enough cash for the weekend, etc.
Perhaps consider the trouble you have to go through as your credit union’s subtle hint that it’s better to save and hold on to your money until you decide whatever you need to spend it on is worth the hassle (or an ATM fee at another place.)

not all credit unions are created the same. Mine allows me to bank (deposit/withdraw) at any UPS Store or Deposit@Home via a scanner, refunds ALL atm fees (I get cash at the bar ALL THE TIME!), and has amazing customer service/rates.

Drea (#325)

My credit union is part of a network that let’s me get cash from any ATM in a 7-11 fee free. Maybe you just picked the wrong one.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

I desperately want to break up with Bank of America and join a credit union, but unfortunately none of the conveniently located ones with decent services will accept me (I don’t meet whatever their membership qualifications are). I was actually shocked that not a single CU in [extremely large metropolitan region] had minimal fees (sorry dudes, I cannot maintain a $200 minimum balance; this is America!), a location in the business district where I work, and would accept me as a member. Not. one.

Instead I’m planning on transferring to a regional bank – so instead of giving my money to a corporation that is huge and evil like BoA, I’ll just be giving to one that ASPIRES to be huge and evil. And at least has an ATM near my office.

wendy (#330)

really? my dinky cu in philly lets me use,free, the atm in any 7-11 in the country, lets me deposit in a huge amount of other cu’s, even across the country, and today just announced that they now have deposits via smart phone photo. i chose mine because it had the highest money market and cd rates around, but there isn’t a branch anywhere near where i live or work, but i never need to go there – except once i went to open an ira. i use another cu close to my home to deposit, and opened my account by mail. their interface is a bit clunkier, but they have all the online banking features that my big bank did. so,as others said, maybe you just need to change your cu.

whimseywisp (#220)

My credit union is pretty awesome. I can use any atm and they will reimburse me the fees as long as I fit in their qualifications (which are easy to meet!).

Myrtle (#116)

Great comments and advice on here. Love to see an update to the post with what you did?

It is still a work in progress! But the plan is to flesh it all out next week! x

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