WICHITA, Kan. (8/8/08)--Because they can make a difference in peoples’ lives, credit unions are an important financial alternative for about 90 million Americans, said a credit union CEO in a Thursday op-ed piece in The Wichita Eagle. Jim Holt, president/CEO of Mid-American CU, a $121.5 million asset, Wichita, Kan.-based credit union, said credit unions save members about $10.9 billion per year due to lower fees and better rates, according to data provided by the Credit Union National Association. “Perhaps the best reason people belong to credit unions is because we exist to help people--not to make a profit,” Holt said in the op-ed. “A voluntary and member-elected board of directors from the membership governs each credit union. This keeps us focused on meeting the financial needs and satisfaction of our members.” Members of credit unions share a common bond--usually through an employer group--but also through a church or community, Holt said. Credit unions have become important partners in facilitating the financial well-being of members by offering free seminars on topics such as planning for retirement or purchasing a new home, Holt added. Having a credit union also benefits consumers in other ways, Holt added. “Studies have shown that when there is a credit union in the community, savings rates tend to be higher, and loan rates and fees tend to be lower at other financial institutions,” he explained.