I am a credit union member.
That's right-the $5 deposit in my savings account gives me an ownership share in the organization and the right to vote in its elections.
I opened the account the day after I started as a full-time staffer at Credit Union Times, figuring that I had better walk the walk if I was going to talk the talk. Using an online locator recommended by a commenter on our Credit Union Exchange blog, I found a credit union with a community charter that included my home county.
From the CU's website, I filled out the membership application. I chose to make the minimum deposit in order to get my foot in the door, knowing I could add more products and services later on. However, I learned my application would not be complete until I mailed in my signature, so I dutifully printed the page from our office printer and brought it home to stick it in a stamped envelope. During my lunch break the next day, I dropped it off at the post office across the street from where I work.
I'll be honest with you. If it weren't for my new job with this publication, becoming a credit union member probably never would have crossed my mind-nor would I have known how to find one I was eligible to join or persevered through the antiquated process of verifying my account via snail mail.
In the meantime, I further entangled myself with my primary financial institution, a large regional bank, by arranging for my paychecks to be deposited directly into my existing checking account. I also enjoyed the convenience of being able to take my remaining paychecks from my time as a freelancer and deposit them at a teller station in the branch on the corner of my office block.
My $5 languished in my credit union savings account. I had no reason to develop the relationship further.
That is, until I wrote my October column, in which I contended that credit unions can attract Gen Yers by appealing to our collective desire to change the world for the better. I suggested that CUs encourage young people to "think globally, act locally" by putting their money in financial institutions committed to social responsibility and serving the community.
It's time for me to practice what I preach.
I have decided to make my credit union my primary financial institution. The benefits-better rates, fewer fees and good karma-outweigh the hassle of dissolving my ties to my current bank.
Luckily, I won't have to go it alone. While researching best practices for capturing Gen Y members, I came across a white paper from payment processor First Data that emphasizes the importance of switch kits. I had never heard of them before. As it turns out, a switch kit is just what I need: a way to "conveniently unravel sticky features such as direct deposit."
Lo and behold, my credit union does indeed offer a switch kit. I found it at the bottom of a list of options categorized under "Online Access." Unfortunately, when I click on it, I am told that "the online switch kit is not available at this time" and urged to "contact [my] credit union's administrator for more information on making the switch."
Rest assured that I will do so. However, this is another instance in which my job-related CU knowledge gave me assistance that my uninitiated peers do not have. Gen Y wants to do the right thing, but credit unions must guide the way with clear signposts and a smoother path.