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VIENNA, Va. – Members of Navy FCU who have had their checking accounts with the credit union closed because of improper account management are getting a second chance to prove they can demonstrate good money management skills. Navy FCU last month created a Fresh Start Checking account specifically for members whose SharechekT account has been closed by the credit union due to mismanagement – either their account has been overdrawn for an extended period of time or it has an excessive number of returned items. The objective, says Navy FCU, is to give these members access to a checking account while they learn good money management skills. “Over the years we’ve had members whose accounts we had to close because of mismanagement,” says NFCU VP, Saving Products Kathy Zierers. “We know people make mistakes or that unexpected things happen to people that leave them overwhelmed and overburdened with financial hardships. In the past we’ve had a certain percentage of these members appeal to us to reopen their checking account. With Fresh Start Checking, if these members show a level of commitment to maintain their checking account properly, we’ll be able to give them a second chance.” From research the credit union’s conducted on these members, it’s learned their average age is 32 years old. Nearly two-thirds of them are military. Fresh Start Checking has a $5 monthly fee and a $100 secured Share Savings requirement. Before opening the account, the member is expected to reimburse Navy FCU dollar losses and half of any NSF fees the credit union incurred from the member’s Sharechek account, up to $100. ATM transactions are permitted on a Fresh Start Checking account. After 12 months of demonstrating they’re able to maintain the account satisfactorily, members are converted to a regular Sharechek account. Zierers stressed Fresh Start Checking is not a defensive measure, but an initiative by Navy to help its members be more financially responsible. “We wanted to find an innovative way to help these members and avoid putting them through the painful process of writing us letters, appealing our decision to close their Sharechek account and explaining to us what happened,” she said. Without Fresh Start Checking, Zierers said many of the members whose Sharechek accounts were closed would go to another financial institution to try to open a checking account. But their efforts would be fruitless because those financials would learn by doing their research that these members have a bad check management history. So the members would be directed to open fee-based accounts or they’d resort to using money orders or other means to pay their bills. “We see this as a win-win for the credit union and the member,” says Zierers. “Navy has helped members be more financially responsible, and the member is converted back to our free checking account and is back on track to being financially responsible. We know these members may not turn around and open a Fresh Start Checking account right away. But they’ll go out and talk with other financials and realize Fresh Start is a good deal for them.” -

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