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<p>MADISON, Wis.-A recent study released by CUNA & Affiliates demonstrates, contrary to the typical reports that credit unions are a better deal than banks, that credit unions actually charge more for nonsufficient funds (NSF) fees than banks. The survey, CUNA & Affiliates’ 2002 Fees Survey Report, found that credit unions charge more than $5 over the banks’ fees. While only 64% of credit unions charged NSF fees when a member wrote a bad check to the credit union from an account at another institution as of June 2001, compared with banks at 72% at year-end 2000, the credit union fees were significantly higher. Credit unions charged $13.73 for deposited items returned due to a members NSF, where as banks and thrifts only charged an average of $7.01. Additionally, only 65% of credit unions charged fees for deposited items returned due to the payor’s NSF and 72% of banks made this charge. However, credit unions charged members an average or $12.06 as of June 2001, while banks and thrifts charged an average of $7.01. Nonetheless, credit unions gave themselves a big pat on the back when the CUNA survey found that credit unions continue to offer more bang for the buck for consumers scrutinizing checking services. The study discovered that considerably more credit union provide some free checking and less credit unions charge consumers for overdrafts than banks. Not only that: credit unions charge less. The study reported that two-thirds of credit unions that provide checking services offer at least one free checking account. This compares to just 28% of banks and thrifts, according to the Federal Reserve’s 2001 Report on Retail Fees and Services of Depository Institutions. While nearly all banks and savings associations charge for overdrafts, just 72% of credit unions charge members for this activity. Furthermore, these credit unions charge $8.43 less, on average than banks and thrifts, with average charges at credit unions at $11.35 and banks and thrifts at $19.78 as of June 2001. Credit unions’ fee income accounted for just 7.9% of credit union income at year-end 2000, up from 7% in 1997. Nearly 41% of that is derived from NSF fees or overdrafts. The study pointed out that 11% of credit unions saw no fee income in 2000. However, fee income may become more important in the current weak economic environment, the study warned. [email protected]</p>

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