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PORTLAND, Ore. — Point West Credit Union hopes its new Fresh Start Checking and partnership with financial counseling service provider BALANCE will help serve as an alternative to payday lending. Designed to particularly help the local Hispanic community, which is usually targeted by check cashing outlets and payday lenders, the new products allow members to open a checking account without previously established credit, Social Security Number or Individual Tax I.D. Number. The account provides ATM access, online banking access, checks, and access to direct deposit. According to Point West CU execs, a $10 monthly fee gives members an opportunity to avoid exorbitant check cashing fees and charges for money orders. After one year of maintaining the account in good standing, the account automatically converts into a regular free checking account with additional privileges. One of the few requirements for opening a Fresh Start Checking account is the completion of “inbalance,” a free online financial education workshop in Spanish provided by BALANCE at the credit union branches. BALANCE, a division of Consumer Credit Counseling Services of San Francisco, provides members with free access to financial training and counseling over the phone or online with certified financial counselors. The training and resources are provided both in Spanish and English.

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