Can I Join Your Credit Union?

Credit unions face enough perceptual barriers to growing membership. Returned mail fees and census tracts don’t need to be among them.

I’m looking forward to this week’s 2018 Credit Union Analytics Summit, traveling cross country to bring ideas about emerging and proven best practices in data analytics and business intelligence to our readers.

Maybe I can even figure out whether I can join a large credit union here at home. So far, I haven’t been able to unearth that myself.

Our consultants and strategic planners at Callahan are exploring the tough questions for credit unions throughout 2018. A simple question of member eligibility shouldn’t be one of these.


The My Generation blog on has addressed this issue before, but it emerged again last week when I considered switching credit unions, momentarily, over a returned mail fee.

Also read: Which Credit Union Can I Join?

I’ll call them Credit Union A and Credit Union B. Neither of these institutions are small. They have nearly 350,000 members between them.

My PFI is Credit Union A, a cooperative I joined a few years ago through an indirect auto loan. Last week, I saw a $5 fee in my share draft account for returned mail processing. I called Credit Union A and the member service representative reversed the charge.

She agreed it seemed odd that correctly addressed mail to my house would be returned to the credit union. She asked, reasonably enough, if I was having mail delivery issues. Not that I know of, I told her, and regardless, I shouldn’t be hit with a fee because of that. Fine the post office $5 instead.

One rave and two small rants for Credit Union A before I move on to Credit Union B. I didn’t have my member or share draft account numbers memorized, which prompted a strikingly long list of security questions. That probably would have irked some members, but I give kudos. I’m an owner of that credit union, and I don’t want to see it eat any more fraud losses than necessary.

That’s the rave. The first rant is that a $5 mail return fee is pretty punitive, especially since it’s likely to recur unless there’s some kind of proactive action taken, either on my part or the credit union’s. I acted.

The second is that the call menu navigation did not give me a clear option for my issue, so I hit 0. The IVR simply ended the call. If a caller hits 0, they should go to a human being or at least the voice mail of a named human being. That seems like the more intuitive, credit union-y, non-corporate thing to do.

Strategy is a process. That’s why Callahan & Associates has developed team learning experiences that help executives become more effective, make better strategic decisions, and ultimately thrive together. Learn more today at

This isn’t the first time I encountered technology hurdles at Credit Union A. When I took out my car loan a few years ago, I tried to make some payments ahead of time. The online system couldn’t handle it, and the online MSRs said they could do nothing about it. I asked two different managers in two different branches in person and they said they could do it, but their efforts failed, and they told me their software couldn’t handle it.

I knew the vendor and called to ask if its software could handle out-of-cycle payments. Yep, a product manager told me. The credit union just has to flip a switch, so to speak.

That loan is long paid off, but I did briefly consider switching credit unions again last week, so I checked out joining Credit Union B, which is based in another South Carolina city but making a big move into our market.

I had tried to check my eligibility online at that credit union about a year ago and couldn’t figure it out, so I stopped in a branch last week at lunch. The MSR couldn’t figure it out either. In our market, membership eligibility is based on census tract where you work, worship, or live, unless you work directly for one of the SEGs.

Even with my home address, the MSR couldn’t figure out if I was eligible to join Credit Union B. She gave me the phone number of someone who was at lunch but knew more and could help when she got back.

I went back to my office tried the online process again, figuring time had passed and maybe it had been improved. Nope. I navigated a few screens and entered my home address. It helpfully displayed a map from the FFIEC, informing me by red dot where I live.

The map was not very user friendly. After some examination, I found where my census track was listed in a drop-down next to the map. But again, I had to cut and paste the census tract into yet another window to find out if I was eligible to join.

I wasn’t. So, I figured I’d try my work address, since it’s a short block from the branch I was just in. The FFIEC map didn’t recognize that address. Or even that street.

Of course, I could call the credit union person whose number I had just been given. But I’d had enough. Maybe I’ll consider Credit Union C. There are more in my market.

But first, off to Seattle for CULytics. I’ll be learning how credit unions can use data to drive engagement. I already know how they can drive it away.

March 12, 2018

Keep Reading

View all posts in:
More on:
Scroll to Top
Verified by MonsterInsights