The end of the U.S.'s mission in Iraq is in sight. U.S. troops areset to withdraw from Iraq's urban areas by June 30. President Obamahas pledged that combat operations across Iraq will end by Aug. 31,2010, and all remaining troops will be withdrawn by December2011.
Service members returning home could face stressful events such asunemployment and foreclosure. That's where credit unions comein.
Arty Arteaga, president/CEO of the Defense Credit Union Council,explained the situation at credit unions that serve military bases.They must remain viable while the base's troops are deployed and be“still standing tall, ready to provide support when they return,”Arteaga said. “I can assure you, they do that. They absolutely dothat. That to me is loyalty. That to me is commitment. They doexactly what they've been asked to do and then some.”
“Military members and their families face many unique challenges,financial and otherwise,” said Gordon Simmons, president/CEO ofService Credit Union, based in Portsmouth, N.H. “Service CreditUnion is honored to serve our military members whether they aredeployed in a war zone or returning from duty to the UnitedStates.” The credit union provides loan discounts and higher rateson savings to newly enlisted military members through its STARprogram. Service CU also offers a Warriors Rewards program, whichmakes even further reduced loan rates and increased deposit ratesavailable to deployed military and civilians supporting UStroops.
Pacific Marine Credit Union, based in Camp Pendleton, Calif.,offers a number of programs that make life easier for its militarymembers when it comes to their finances. For starters, each year,the credit union conducts more than 150 financial educationsessions that teach more than 20,000 Marines about such topics asbuying a car, managing debt and basic investing.
One of the founding members of the Military Saves Campaign, aprogram designed by the Consumer Federation of America to encourageservice members to save for the future, Pacific Marine offers aspecial rate on its Military Saver Certificate during MilitarySaves Week, usually the last week in February. Last year, more than1,450 of the credit union's active duty members opened 7% APYMilitary Saver Certificates during the month of February, with atotal of more than $400,000 in opening deposits. Pacific Marineexpects its members to have more than $1.5 million in their MSCs bythe end of 2009.
Camp Pendleton spans 200 square miles. Thousands of the youngservice members housed there do not own a car or have the time totravel to do their banking. Last year, to accommodate the needs ofthese members, Pacific Marine built a mobile branch with a travelschedule that includes some of the most remote locations in thecamp. A self-contained vehicle with full-service capabilities, themobile branch was an investment of more than $450,000. According toBrad Smith, Pacific Marine's vice president of strategicdevelopment, such programs for military members are worth theinvestment. “These programs can be costly to provide, but it is ourmission to give back to our membership. We are a credit union,that's what we do,” Smith said.
Suitland, Md.-based Andrews Federal Credit Union agreed withSmith's statements. “Costs are not a major concern when it comes tocaring for the men and women who dedicate their lives to protectingour country,” said Melissa Gardner, community outreach coordinatorfor the credit union, which serves a membership that is about 51%military.
Returning from active duty can be a difficult transition. AndrewsFederal tries to help smooth the way for service members by waivinglate fees, extending loan terms or reducing monthly payments sothey can meet their loan obligations. Recognizing that some servicemembers have immediate needs upon returning to the U.S., the creditunion also provides an emergency loan product with no credit checkor checking account requirement; the service member is onlyrequired to have direct deposit into his or her account.
Andrews offers its emergency loans at reintegration sessions forservice members who have returned from deployment. Service memberswho experience financial difficulties can receive free financialcounseling and money management services from the credit union atthese sessions. One of the main issues that the credit union helpsservice members with is obtaining products and services to housethe hazardous duty and bonus pay they may have accrued duringdeployment.
Tampa Bay, Fla.-based Grow Financial Federal Credit Union wasfounded in 1955 as MacDill Air Force Base Federal Credit Union andtoday serves about 25,000 active and retired military members(about 15% of its total membership). Grow Financial “goes above andbeyond” the requirements of the Service Members Civil Relief Act toensure that members covered under the act are aware of the ratesrequired on their loans and credit cards, said Allen Milliron,assistant vice president for business development at the creditunion. Unlike many other credit card issuers, Milliron said, GrowFinancial does not adjust outstanding credit card balances tocurrent rates once military members have completed their activeduty tours. When they return to civilian life, their outstandingbalances remain at the SCRA rate of 6% APR.
The credit union also periodically holds focus groups with youngmilitary members during off-duty hours. The participants are paidfor their time and can express their financial concerns to amoderator. This form of research enables Grow Financial to developservices attuned to the needs of the military community, Millironexplained.
A number of credit unions offer loans designed specifically formilitary members. Wright-Patt Credit Union, based in Fairborn,Ohio, announced in 2007 a pilot loan program that gets moreactive-duty personnel and veterans into their own homes.Wright-Patt's Hero'sChoice Home Loan, developed in cooperation withCMG Mortgage Insurance Co., offers “lower costs, faster processingand higher loan limits than the standard VA loan,” according to thecredit union.
Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union, based in San Antonio, beganits Patriot Express Loan program in 2007. The loans feature SBA'slowest interest rates for business loans (generally 2.25% to 4.75%depending on the loan's size and maturity), according to the SBA'sWeb site, Thus far, Randolph-Brooks has made availablemore than $5 million in these loans, helping more than 100 eligiblemilitary community members.
[email protected]

Complete your profile to continue reading and get FREE access to, part of your ALM digital membership.

  • Critical information including comprehensive product and service provider listings via the Marketplace Directory, CU Careers, resources from industry leaders, webcasts, and breaking news, analysis and more with our informative Newsletters.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM and CU Times events.
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including and

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.