I was pleased to learn in a recent issue of the Island Dispatch that our Grand Island Community Federal Credit Union is expanding its services to anyone who lives, works, worships, attends school or volunteers on Grand Island.
The timing couldn't be better. I've talked to friends who are disgusted with their commercial banks. First, there's those rising fees (existing and planned) on use of debit cards, credit cards, checking, using a teller, receiving paper statements, use of another bank's ATM, and other manipulations. And there's the scaling back of benefits such as rewards programs. Second, interest on savings accounts is an abysmally low 1/10th of a percent or lower.
Quite frankly, large commercial banks, by and large, don't serve our local community well. They are huge for-profit corporations, which have merged banking and investment operations. They speculated in real estate and crashed the economy, relying on us to bail them out. Their CEOs and top officers make billions. (The CEO of "my" commercial bank "earned" $2.5 million this year; he and a handful of his co-officers made over a combined $12 million.) Their investors continue to make hundreds of billions, largely through investments outside the U.S.; right now, they're sitting on over a trillion dollars that they refuse to invest in U.S. jobs. They buy politicians, blocking real banking reform - since 2008 they've contributed nearly $5 billion to congressional elections, threatening to destroy any politician who might attempt to break them up or put a firewall between banking and investment. For all of their corruption, not one banker has gone to jail.
Today, I decided to participate in National Bank Transfer Day. This movement, prompted by Occupy Wall Street (including our own Occupy Buffalo), has shone a light on the value of credit unions. At our Grand Island Federal Credit Union, I learned that I can join and become a member by taking out a savings or checking account. As a member I can attend an annual board meeting and directly elect a voluntary board. My money will help pay for the salaries of three staff - there are no millionaire CEOs or officers. The credit union will serve my/our community by doing basic banking: savings accounts (no fees); checking accounts ($5 minimum balance, $15 for a bounced check, $2 per overdraft); credit/debit cards; loans - auto, personal, home equity - will be made at very modest interest rates. The interest on my savings account will be 1/2 percent - modest, but a lot more than yields at commercial banks.
What about convenience? Our credit union offers free ATM services at over 100 locations in Western New York (such as 7/11s). Very soon the Island and other area Walgreens will have ATM services. And, in the next couple of months, online banking will be available to members. Services and convenience will increase as more of us join - please consider becoming a member.
Roger A. Cook
West River Road