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Credit unions offer better services to consumers than banks, survey shows

South Sound Credit Union MG_9631Credit unions are more than twice as likely as banks to offer free checking accounts to new customers, according to a

Bankrate surveyed the nation’s 50 largest credit unions and found that 76 percent of their checking accounts are free – with no service fees or per transaction charges regardless of balance or activity. Only 37 percent of banks offer free checking.

In 2010, 78 percent of credit unions and 65 percent of banks offered free checking accounts to everyone.

“At a time when free checking has become increasingly rare at large banks, it is still very prevalent among credit unions,” said Greg McBride, CFA,’s chief financial analyst.

The average credit union overdraft fee is $27, which is less than the $33 average found at banks.

Credit unions’ ATM fees are better than those at banks; 34 percent have no fee for going outside the network, or at least one free out-of-network withdrawal per week.

Additional findings from the survey:

None of the credit unions surveyed require more than $100 to open an account and 66 percent have no minimum.

Surcharging non-members for using a credit union’s ATM is nearly universal, with 96 percent of credit unions making the charge. The most common fee is $3, which is the same as at banks.

Thirty-eight percent of the credit union checking accounts surveyed pay interest. Of those, the most common yield is .05 percent.


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