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<p>ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Federal credit unions may offer wire transfer services to nonmembers within their field-of-membership under three conditions outlined by NCUA General Counsel Robert Fenner in a legal opinion written in response to an inquiry from Maria Martinez, president/CEO, Border FCU in Del Rio, Texas. NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar appropriately announced the agency’s position at the World Council of Credit Unions’ reception Saturday evening, Feb. 23 at the Mexican Cultural Center that also was the backdrop for a special People-to-People Partnership signing ceremony between WOCCU, the California and Texas credit union leagues, and Caja Popular Mexicana In her letter to NCUA, Martinez explained that the $43 million Border FCU has many individuals in its field of membership with familial ties to Mexico and who frequently send funds to relatives in Mexico using wire transfer services that charge a fee of as much as 28% of the amount transferred. The credit union was interested in addressing the problem by offering wire transfer services to anyone in its field of membership, regardless if they were currently a member of Border FCU, and inquired if the provision of wire transfer services to non-members within an FCU’s field-of-membership was allowed under incidental powers authority. “Unfortunately, the express authority of FCUs to provide money transfer services precludes offering wire transfer services on an unlimited or continuous basis to persons who are within the field of membership but have not joined the credit union,” Fenner wrote. “However, there are in our view at least three possible methods for FCUs to meet the needs of the individuals you have described in a manner that is consistent with the limitations of the FCU Act and the provisions of NCUA’s regulations,” he added. The three conditions Fenner outlined include: establishing a simplified membership program, with a non-dividend bearing membership account; providing wire transfer services as a promotional activity pursuant to its incidental powers; providing wire transfer services as a charitable activity, in appropriate circumstances. Fenner also emphasized that, “The foregoing alternatives do not alter the requirement that FCUs comply with other record keeping and reporting requirements applicable to wire transfers.Also, the recent passage of the U.S.A. Patriot’s Act requires the Treasury Department and the financial institution regulators, including NCUA, to establish regulations setting forth minimum standards for financial institutions and their customers regarding verification of customer identity.” Fenner said the NCUA believed the alternatives he discussed are consistent with the limitations of the FCU Act and the provisions of NCUA’s regulations, and present “useful options.for FCUs to consider in an effort to offer a valuable service to underserved segments of their fields of membership.” – [email protected]</p>

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