• Key Differences Between Credit Unions and Banks

    Banks vs. Credit Unions pros and cons written on a blackboard.

    Managing your finances can be confusing. In fact, even knowing where to store your money can seem like a quandary, especially if you are new to banking. You may have heard people talking about how much they love their bank, or how much better it is to use a credit union, but is there really that much of a difference? The answer is yes, there are several differences between credit unions and banks, which we will explore here.

    First, let’s look at how they are the same. Banks and credit unions are similar institutions in that they provide checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit (CDs) and investment accounts, as well as mortgages, auto loans, and small business loans. Additionally, both banks and credit unions are insured by the United States government for up to $250,000 per deposit account. However, the way banks and credit unions are structured is very different, and so are the benefits they provide their customers.

    • Banks are for-profit, while credit unions are not-for-profit organizations. Banks invest the money you put into their care and the interest they take in from loans, and they use that money to grow the company, passing dividends to the owners. Credit unions, on the other hand, are structured differently. Because they are non-profit, the dividends they earn are passed along to their members. In addition, credit unions are member-owned, and members have the opportunity to vote on things like who should be elected to the board of directors.
    • Credit unions pay higher interest rates than banks. Because they’re member-owned, credit unions make higher interest rates on checking accounts, savings accounts, money market accounts and CDs a priority. In contrast, because banks are profit-driven and have a higher overhead, their bank accounts pay lower interest rates.
    • Often, the fees on credit union accounts are lower than those on bank accounts. For the same reason that they provide lower interest rates, banks often have higher fees. While banks often charge monthly fees and high overdraft charges, credit union fees are typically lower, with many offering free checking and savings accounts.
    • Loans through credit unions typically have better terms than loans from banks. If you’re a credit union member, you can typically get a lower loan rate on a car loan, mortgage loan, personal loan, or small-business loan than the customers of big banks. What’s more, credit union officers are often willing to work out loan options for people with low credit scores, while banks are likely to reject applicants who have low scores, because they calculate risk based on credit scores alone.

    Judging from the information so far, it may seem that credit unions are a no-brainer. In truth, banks have some advantages as well.

    • Banks offer better rewards programs than credit unions. Bank credit cards may offer rewards points or cashback, and opening a bank account will often score you a sign-up bonus. Credit unions don’t typically have these options.
    • Banks tend to have more locations than credit unions. Credit unions are often local or regional, while banks have physical locations across the United States. This makes it easier if you tend to move on a regular basis, and it’s more convenient for accessing funds in person or at ATMs.
    • Banks generally have better technology. This is because big banks have more resources, so they have better websites, mobile apps, advanced card technology, mobile check deposit, and mobile wallets. Credit unions are gaining on banks in this area, but for now, banks tend to have the advantage.
    • Banks are easier to join. Credit unions typically limit their membership, so that you can only join through your employer, place of worship, physical location, or membership in a specific organization. Banks, on the other hand, see you as a source of revenue and are eager to have you open an account.

    So with the benefits fairly evenly distributed, how do you choose between a bank and credit union? First, determine which options are most important to you. Then, look into specific banks and credit unions to see what they have to offer. Include online banking services in your research, and look for the organization that gives you the most of what you need. Still can’t decide? There’s nothing that says you can’t have more than one account, in more than one institution.

    Since 1941, GCS Credit Union has been serving customers in Illinois, providing loans, basic savings, and other banking services. Having started as a single location, we’ve spread throughout the area, and now support Sangamon, Logan, Macon, Marion, Jefferson, Perry, Jackson, Williamson, Jersey, Macoupin, Montgomery, Madison, Bond, Clinton, St. Clair, Monroe, Washington and Randolph counties. Dedicated to focusing on our members’ financial needs, we’re a not-for-profit, member-owned financial cooperative. If you’d like to know more about the benefits of a credit union, call (618) 797-7993, or contact us through our website.

  • What Are Some Misconceptions About Credit Unions?

    Credit unions offer a range of benefits that banks do not, but misconceptions about how they work keep away many people who could reap the rewards of membership. If you haven’t considered credit union membership because you think that it’s not for you, you could be making your decision based on outdated or mischaracterized facts. Here is a closer look at some of the common misconceptions about credit unions and the real facts behind them.

    Misconception: Most people can’t qualify for credit union membership.

    It is true that credit unions have membership criteria. As such, there are likely to be credit unions for which you do not qualify. However, the sheer number of credit unions means that almost everyone can qualify for membership in at least one. Many credit unions also offer membership to the family members of people who qualify, so even if you don’t qualify on your own for a particular credit union, if you have a family member who does, you may still be able to join.

    Misconception: Credit unions have limited services.

    Credit unions are non-profit institutions, so they tend to spend less on marketing efforts than banks do. This has created the perception that banks have lots of high-tech services to offer their customers and credit unions do not. In reality, most credit unions offer the exact same services as banks, from loans to mobile banking, and they often provide these services at better rates. You won’t be limiting your access to financial services by joining a credit union.

    Misconception: Credit union locations are hard to find.

    Credit unions frequently have fewer physical locations than large banks, but that doesn’t leave customers high and dry. Most credit unions are part of a shared national network that allows members to easily perform banking services, no matter how far they are away from their home base.

    Find out more about the benefits of credit union membership by contacting GCS Credit Union. We offer an extensive collection of services, including checking accounts, online bill pay, and auto loans. You can learn more about joining our credit union in O’Fallon by calling (618) 797-7993.

  • Credit Unions and the Rise of Auto Lending

    Need a new set of wheels? Before you apply for in-house financing at the dealership, head for your local credit union. Dealership financing tends to involve unfavorable interest rates and restrictive terms for borrowers. You’ll find that the interest rates at your local credit union are far more advantageous for your wallet. In fact, during the past few years, credit unions have demonstrated remarkable growth in auto loans .

    Improving Economic Conditions

    According to Forbes magazine, there has been a 30 percent increase in auto lending among credit unions in the U.S. since 2012. During the third quarter of 2014 alone, auto loans from credit unions totaled nearly $225 billion-a figure that includes both new and used autos. This was a significant increase from the third quarter of 2013, which had $193 billion in auto loans. Economists note that improving economic conditions have contributed to the rise of auto lending from credit unions. The unemployment rate has been declining, wages have been increasing, and gas prices have been steadily dropping. All of these factors have given consumers greater confidence in the economy in general and their personal finances in particular.

    Competitive Lending from Credit Unions

    Since the recession, many consumers have made greater efforts to become better informed about their financial decisions. Increasingly, consumers have turned to credit unions for favorable lending arrangements. Credit unions have a reputation for offering interest rates that are consistently lower than auto loans from a bank or financing through a dealership. Additionally, some credit unions offer auto discounts to their members, such as a discount for purchasing environmentally friendly hybrid vehicles.

    When it’s time to shop around for your new or gently used vehicle, stop by GCS Credit Union first and ask about our auto loans in O’Fallon. Our credit union is proud to serve the Metro East community with competitive rates , flexible terms, and exceptional member service. Call (618) 797-7993 or visit our website to view our convenient list of GCS Indirect Auto Dealers, car buying tips, and incredible auto discounts!

  • Tips for Making the Switch to a Credit Union

    Members of your local credit union are already enjoying fee-free checking, convenient online banking, and competitive loan rates. There’s no reason to wait to become a member; your local credit union will help you make the switch. As a member of a credit union, you’ll receive the personalized service you’d expect from a small town branch paired with the financial resources of a major financial institution.

    Check Your Membership Eligibility

    Credit unions require potential members to apply for membership. However, becoming a member is easy. Usually, the main eligibility requirements are that you either live or work within a certain geographical area, such as a town or county. Other credit unions are offered to employees of specific companies. If you have problems with the membership application, a credit union representative will be glad to offer assistance.

    Evaluate Your Account Options

    Consider all of your options before choosing the right online checking account for your needs. Many people make the switch to credit unions because they’re fed up with monthly account maintenance fees, ATM fees, and other fees. At a credit union, fee-free checking isn’t your only option . You might also find a checking account that pays you dividends each month and refunds on ATM fees. Your credit union also likely offers savings accounts, youth savings accounts, money market accounts, and share certificates.

    Identify Convenience Services

    When you switch to a credit union, you can take advantage of numerous convenience services. Look for tools like eStatements, mobile banking apps, online bill pay, and surcharge-free ATMs across the country. Credit unions strive to make banking a positive experience for their members.

    With online checking accounts, competitive auto loans and home mortgage loans, online bill pay, and so much more, GCS Credit Union is the financial institution of choice for the Metro East community. When you’re ready to join a credit union in O’Fallon, give us a call at (618) 797-7993 or stop by one of our convenient branches. We invite our neighbors to take advantage of our fee-free checking and cash-back incentives!

  • The Differences Between Credit Unions and Banks

    If you aren’t yet a member of a credit union, it’s time to learn more about them. Being a member of a credit union offers significant advantages compared to being a customer of a bank. Just like at a bank, your deposits at a credit union are insured and backed by the federal government. However, credit unions have a great deal more flexibility than banks regarding their lending decisions. This means that as a member of a credit union, you can enjoy low loan interest rates.

    Hear more about the advantages of credit unions by watching this video. It features a financial expert who explains the differences in ownership between banks and credit unions. He also discusses how you can join a credit union.

    For superior online banking in O’Fallon, you can turn to GCS Credit Union . Call us at (618) 797-7993 or visit us online to learn more about our secure online banking platform and highly competitive interest rates for our members.

  • Tips for Getting a Home Loan from Your Credit Union

    While issuing home loans used to be a job only for banks, a credit union today offers competitive rates for home mortgage loans in O’Fallon. In fact, more and more consumers are turning to a credit union to secure their home mortgage loans for the best home financing options. Keep reading to find out why you should consider your finances, understand your options, and know your rates to get the best home loan.

    Consider Your Finances

    Before you get a home loan from your credit union, it is important to have a complete understanding of your financial situation . Your credit union may also offer online banking and online checking accounts, so you can consolidate for maximum efficiency. Whether you bank with your credit union or elsewhere, you should review your bank statements, W-2s, and other investment information. That way, you know your budget and are ready to begin applications for home mortgage loans even before you find the home of your dreams.

    Understand Your Options

    To get the best home loan from your credit union, it is important to research and understand your options. That way, your credit union will see that you are committed to the loan process and are a solid investment for them. You can choose between a 15-year and a 30-year mortgage.

    Know Your Rates

    After preparing the necessary documents and analyzing your financial situation, you should schedule a consultation to discuss your home mortgage application with a representative from your credit union. The credit union will analyze your credit, income, and financial history to secure the best home loan for you. Because interest rates can fluctuate, you may be able to lock in a good rate if you act quickly.

    Are you interested in learning more about how to get the best rates for home mortgage loans? Contact GCS Credit Union of O’Fallon by calling (618) 797-7993 today. Our credit union has been providing loans, savings, and bank services since 1941. Our employees are dedicated to focusing on your financial needs and not making a profit.

  • What Are the Benefits of Credit Unions?

    Many people switch to credit unions because they’re tired of paying high checking account fees and mortgage and auto loan interest rates. Credit unions follow a different business model than traditional banking institutions, and are committed to providing a much friendlier experience for their customers. Here is a look at some of the benefits of choosing a credit union.

    You’ll Pay Lower Interest Rates and Fees

    As a credit union member, you’ll pay lower interest rates on auto loans and home mortgage loans, lower fees for your checking account . You will also enjoy higher interest rates on savings accounts. Most credit unions have a lot of flexibility regarding the fees that they charge members, and will opt to cut unnecessary costs or services rather than increase fees.

    You’re a Shareholder Rather than a Customer

    The members of a credit union are shareholders in the financial institution, and thus credit unions are only accountable to their members, rather than a governing board. The goal of a credit union is to pass along any profits that they make to the customer, rather than making money for the stockholders of the company. This means that your benefits as a credit union member are far more varied and valuable than the benefits offered by most banks.

    You’ll Get Superior Customer Service

    Because credit unions are cooperatives that are partially owned by each member, the employees are invested in providing members with superior customer service. They are non-profit financial institutions, and aim to provide members with affordable services. As a result, the majority of credit union members are incredibly satisfied with the banking services that they receive from their credit union.

    If you’re interested in joining a credit union in O’Fallon , come see us at GCS Credit Union. We have been providing community-powered banking services since 1941, and are a full-service financial institution that offers checking accounts, savings accounts, online banking, auto loans, home mortgage loans, personal loans, credit cards, and IRA and retirement services. To learn more about our credit union, call us today at (618) 797-7993.

  • Convenient Ways to Manage Your Credit Union Accounts

    Whether you are looking to manage your savings account or your checking account, it has never been easier to do so. Between mobile alerts and online banking, it is simpler than ever to keep an eye on your money. Read on for a few convenient ways to manage your credit union accounts.

    A substantial amount of our society now exists online, and your credit union accounts should be no different. With online banking services, you are never more than a few clicks away from your balances and account information. You can even use online banking to pay your bills and transfer money between different accounts, and you can do it all from home. Similarly, mobile banking will keep you connected no matter where you go. Sign up for text alerts so you know when your accounts are running low and can manage accordingly.

    GCS Credit Union is proud to offer different types of credit union accounts. If you are looking to get a checking account in O’Fallon, give us a call at (618) 797-7993 to talk about our online checking accounts. You can also visit our website or stop by and see us to learn about our auto and home mortgage loans.

  • Reaping the Benefits of a Personal Loan

    Although it is not always preferred, borrowing money makes sense in many different cases. Before heading to your credit union to apply for a personal loan, it is a good idea to think about what you might use it for. Keep reading to see how you can reap the benefits of a personal loan.

    Getting Out of Debt

    A personal loan can be extremely helpful when it comes to getting out of debt. Living in debt can be crippling; it can prevent you from getting favorable interest rates or even qualifying for loans, and it can make it difficult to keep food on the table while paying off your lenders. Fortunately a personal loan can help you break free from your debt. Since these loans typically feature fixed repayment periods, you can rest assured that you will be debt-free once you have finished your monthly payments.

    Improving Your Credit Score

    Your credit score is important for a number of reasons, and it is often used to determine the interest rates that a lender can offer you. Incurring more and more debt and making late payments can hurt your credit score, which can then leave you with little flexibility when it comes to interest rates on loans. A low credit score may even keep you from obtaining a mortgage. You can use your personal loan to build your credit by making your payments on time.

    Saving Your Funds

    There are plenty of ways a personal loan can help you save money in the long run, but what can it do for you in the short term? You might be able to refinance a steep interest rate using your personal loan, allowing you to pay a smaller total and still end up with zero debt.

    If you would like to learn more about what you can do with a personal loan, call GCS Credit Union at (618) 797-7993. Our credit union in O’Fallon specializes in a multitude of services from auto and home mortgage loans to online banking and bill paying. Visit our website to learn more about us.

  • Are You Ready for Your First Credit Card?

    Just like your first car or your first night out without a curfew, a Visa rewards credit card can offer you a new sense of freedom. However, this freedom must be used responsibly. Read on if you are wondering if you are ready for your first credit card.

    When used properly, your first credit card can help you build credit and prove your trustworthiness and reliability. When used improperly, on the other hand, it may get your credit started on the wrong foot. Having a credit card means regularly paying off your debts, and you must have a steady source of income in order to make these payments. You may be ready for your first credit card if you already have experience in making regular payments; the process is similar to paying towards your cell phone bills, monthly rent, or student loans.

    Does it feel like it is time for your first credit card? Call GCS Credit Union at (618) 797-7993 so we can set you up with a Visa rewards credit card. We also offer checking accounts and auto loans in O’Fallon. Feel free to visit our website or stop in and meet with us for more information.