From everyday spending to taking out loans, where you bank is a big deal. It can cost — or save — you thousands.
Choose your college credit union, however, and chances are good you’ll end up saving.
Credit unions for college students operate just like banks. But while they offer the same services and products as most banks, college credit unions provide many benefits that banks don’t. Whether you’re a college student or a graduated alumnus, your college credit union could offer a better banking experience.
What is a college credit union?
Although college credit unions have ties to the educational institutions they serve, they aren’t directly run or overseen by the college itself. And not every college or university will have its own credit union. But the benefits can make it worth the effort to find out if your college has a credit union, and to make the switch.
“College students can benefit greatly from membership in their local college credit union,” says Derek Knowlton, vice president of marketing for University Federal Credit Union. “Not only can they get better rates, but they can often get extra benefits and perks because of the credit union’s on-campus relationships and programs.”
How a credit union for college students is beneficial
Generally, the products and services provided by a college credit union will be very similar to those found at other banks and credit unions. But on top of that, college credit unions offer several unique benefits to college students, as well.
1. Low-cost banking and borrowing
One of the biggest benefits of a college credit union is low-cost borrowing and banking.
“Credit unions don’t have shareholders that demand profits,” Knowlton points out. “They are member-owned, non-profit cooperatives that return their profits back to the members in the form of lower rates and member benefits.”
A credit union for college students can offer some of the lowest interest rates on loans and credit of all kinds. Auto loan rates with a credit union, for example, are almost half of those charged by banks, according to MyCreditUnion.gov. They also offer free and low-fee checking and savings accounts.
2. On-campus integration and support
Another key benefit for college students is the added convenience. Many credit unions for students are directly integrated with your campus life, Knowlton says.
In some cases, a college credit union is the only financial institution with an on-campus presence. This might include branches and ATMs. But it might also include seamless integration with meal programs and other on-campus programs.
Sometimes a college credit union might offer other perks, too. University Federal Credit Union pays members’ dues for the student section of at-home football games, for instance. College credit unions will also often sponsor important on-campus services and programs.
3. Products tailored to members’ needs
“[College credit unions also] offer many different products that are geared towards students, such as student Visa cards,” Knowlton says.
Student credit cards can be a low-cost way to start building credit. In addition, student checking gives members free access to banking services.
Even after leaving college, these credit unions offer products and resources suited for young adulthood. University Federal Credit Union, for example, offers first-time buyer programs for auto and home loans.
4. Personal finance educational resources
Many college credit unions recognize that most members are in a stage of life in which learning about personal finance and money management is important.
College credit unions often offer free seminars, online courses, and other resources to help members learn how to responsibly manage money. The credit union often works with the college’s personal finance programs, as well.
5. Help with college costs
College credit unions help students cover the costs of higher education in some cases, too. College scholarships are a common offering.
Typically, credit unions for college students also offer private student loans with low rates. For alumni, many college credit unions offer student loan refinancing that can make repayment faster and more affordable.
Many college students have low income and a thin credit file. But a credit union’s flexible lending standards make it easier for them to qualify for private student loans or student loan refinancing.
6. Easy-to-meet membership requirements
As a college student or alumnus, meeting membership requirements for a college credit union is easy. Simply by being a student or alumnus, you probably already qualify for membership with your college’s credit union.
To know for sure, you can visit the credit union’s website and look for a page outlining membership requirements. Or you can visit a branch or call to discuss your eligibility to join.
And if you do take the credit union plunge, chances are good you’ll save money — and never look back.
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