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Portland CUs connect to bicycle community with loans
PORTLAND, Ore. (7/17/09)--Several credit unions in Portland, Ore., are offering loan programs to help their members finance bicycles and bike accessories. Unitus Community CU began its program more than a year ago. “Unitus recognized people in the Northwest love to be active and healthy, and we see the increasing amount of people biking,” Lori Fink, Unitus marketing manager, told News Now. “We had a connection to the bicycling community via bicycle shops and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Through these relationships, we discovered that there was a need for a loan for those bicyclists who were serious about long rides, races and other community events. “In some cases, the owners of these shops were putting out money to lend to their customers,” Fink added. “In other cases, people purchased their bikes with credit cards. As an effort to provide more people with the opportunity to ride a bicycle, we established a bicycle loan.” Unitus’ loan program applies to new bikes at 80% of the total purchase price, including accessories. Loans must be a minimum of $250. The maximum is $2,500. The loans have a fixed annual percentage rate of 7.99% interest. Loan terms are based on the amount borrowed, and the maximum loan term is one year. Unitus’ target audience is middle-income to blue-collar Northwest residents who care about a healthy lifestyle, and are conscious about the environment, Fink said. “Typically, the weathier folks can afford to buy the more expensive bikes,” she added. Northwest Resource FCU also offers a bike loan program, which started July 1. Although the program has only been offered a few weeks, there already has been some interest, said Kim Faucher, Northwest Resource director of marketing. One woman who was not a member of the credit union learned about the loan program on a biking blog and called the credit union for more information. She wasn’t within the credit union’s field of membership, so she got her company to sign up as a select employee group at Northwest Resource. Her company has about 250 employees. The woman is now planning to buy bikes for her whole family with the program, Faucher told News Now. Northwest Resource offers bike loans at a minimum of $500 and a maximum of $2,500. The loan is unsecured, but will be at a better rate than other unsecured loans the credit union offers, she added. Some say that you shouldn’t go into debt for a car, but is the same true for bikes? “It’s not a huge loan amount,” Faucher said. “If [members] need the bike now rather than having to save up for a year, we can help them.” Northwest Resource plans to go to local bike shops and see if they’d be interested in partnering to promote the loan program. Faucher said the program is looking to promote more than recreational biking--like biking to work and the benefits of biking for exercise and to protect the environment. The credit union serves primarily downtown Portland, and could attract many young people who want to use a bike to commute. A bike loan also could help them build credit since it is a small loan, Faucher said. She advised credit unions interested in offering a bike loan to research others’ programs and then tailor their own lending guidelines.


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