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WASHINGTON-In her family finances column, The Wall Street Journal Reporter Kelly Spors suggested that consumers should look closer at the services credit unions are offering. “These once-sleepy not-for-profit outfits are moving aggressively to compete – and offering noticeably better interest rates on loans and deposits than you’ll find at many local banks,” the column, Credit Unions Offer More, read. Spors cited May 20 data from Bankrate.com, which showed that while banks had a slight edge on 30-year fixed and one-year adjustable rate mortgages (a 0.03% and 0.02% difference, respectively), credit unions beat out the banks in 15-year mortgages, new and used auto loans, and variable rate credit cards by margins reaching over 2%. Credit unions also trounced the banks’ rates on money market and checking accounts, and one- and five-year CDs (See chart). The column suggested consumers check their eligibility for credit union membership at CUNA’s credit union locator at www.creditunion.coop/cu_locator or NCUA’s locator at www.ncua.gov/indexdata.html. Consumers should also be aware of the drawbacks of credit unions, Spors cautioned, like the fact that some credit unions do not offer all the services banks do. She noted a 2003 CUNA study which found that 53% of credit unions offer credit cards, 57% offer ATM access, 17% offer stock/bond brokerage services, and 60% provide Individual Retirement Accounts. CUNA President and CEO Dan Mica was quoted in the column, explaining, “`Bank presidents have to make sure they’re doing everything they can to maximize shareholder profits.’ But with credit unions, he says, `any money that the credit unions isn’t using ultimately goes back to the customers.’” The column also quotes a spokesperson from the American Bankers Association pointing out that credit unions do not pay taxes.

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