NEW YORK (6/22/10)--It’s smart for consumers to join a credit union, The New York Times said Friday. In an article titled “Credit Unions Are Beckoning with Open Arms,” columnist Ron Lieber wrote that credit unions provide good value on financial services. “Today, credit unions often (but not always) offer lower interest rates on credit cards and better deals on auto and other loans than most banks …” Lieber wrote. “One way to become a member is through occupational classification, where credit union members work for the same employer or perform the same job,” he added. “The second is a community credit union, where members must live in the same ‘well-defined’ region.” Lieber noted that in the early 1980s, members of associations were permitted to join credit unions as an element in a push to include populations that banks were not reaching. “The idea was to get credit union service to people who wanted it from people who wanted to give it to them,” said Wendell A. “Bucky” Sebastian, who worked for the federal credit union industry regulatory body at the time and now is executive director of the National Credit Union Foundation. Now some questions and disputes abound about field of membership issues, particularly from bankers, Lieber added. “What representatives of the American Bankers Association find particularly objectionable, though, are the big credit unions that have their own associations for what appears to be the express purpose of signing up people and then making them eligible for credit union membership,” Lieber wrote. However, Sebastian thinks bankers’ arguments are hiding another issue, Lieber added. “It’s all camouflage for the fact that they don’t like that there are institutions that are willing to work on a nonprofit basis,” Sebastian said. “When you don’t have to call Wall Street every quarter and cut rates on savings and raise fees so you can suck even more money out of customers’ pockets and put it in shareholders’ pockets, well, they can say anything they want. But at the end of the day, their goal is to take as much money from customers as possible and give it to stockholders.” Although Lieber said he doesn’t know who is right, he sees a bottom line for the consumer. “So many people haven’t gotten the message yet, that it’s worth repeating again, once more, with feeling,” Lieber concludes. “Anyone can join a credit union. And until the industry regulator stops allowing many of the biggest credit unions to offer services to anyone who shows up or logs in, you’d be foolish not to check out a few the next time you need financial services.” USA FCU, San Diego, also is mentioned in the article. To read the article, use the link.