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Credit Cards: The Credit Union Advantage

By Ashleigh, K-Staff

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Every credit card works in roughly the same way, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t vast differences among your choices. From banks and credit unions to stores and airlines, the companies offering a credit card are legion. Some work only at a particular business (a store credit card), and some work everywhere but offer rewards through a specific company as part of their business (think the Southwest Airlines credit card). Others are offered by financial institutions—these cards work just about everywhere and their reward programs, rates, and other features vary widely.

Before we look at the major differences between credit union-issued and bank-issued credit cards, let’s start with the basics.

Credit cards are not new for most Americans. In the face of the pandemic, many families relied on their credit cards to get them through disruptions in employment. According to Shift Processing, there are currently about 1.06 billion credit cards in use in the United States, and 70% of people have at least one credit card. They’re an essential part of handling emergencies for many families, and credit cards are often the first step to building credit for young people. In an increasingly cashless society, credit is king. On average, each person in the U.S. has 2.7 credit cards. (That’s a statistical average. Don’t feel left out if you count your credit cards in whole numbers.)

So, who offers the best credit card?

That depends a lot on what you need in your particular situation. Credit cards are nearly as unique as their holders. Some cards are built to help build credit. Others are built to reward cardholders. Some charge annual fees while others don’t. Do you plan to use your card often or just have it for emergencies? If you will only use it sparingly, you’ll want a card without annual or maintenance fees. If you plan to use your card quite a bit and will carry a balance, you may be more interested in the annual percentage rate (the interest percentage you’ll pay on your balance month to month). If you really want a credit card that will reward you, you may be more interested in those features than in the interest rate or access fees.

Why should I choose a credit union for my credit card?

Credit unions have several important advantages over traditional banks when it comes to credit cards.

LOWER INTEREST RATES

Perhaps the most notable feature distinguishing credit union credit cards from others is the interest rate cap. A piece of legislation, the Federal Credit Union Act, limits federal credit union rates on loans (including credit cards). The National Credit Union Administration, the regulatory body for credit unions, has authorized an 18 percent ceiling. Note: there are exceptions to these ceilings for certain short-term loans.

According to the NCUA, as of September 2021, the average rate on a classic bank-issued credit card was 12.28% APR (annual percentage rate). The average rate on a classic credit card from a credit union was more than a full percentage point lower at 11.27% APR.

LOWER FEES

Credit unions are owned by their members—for people, not for profits is the credit union way! That focus means that credit unions often have lower fees than traditional banks.

According to CreditCards.com, 45% of traditional bank credit cards come with an annual fee while only 10% of credit union issued card have an annual fee. (Kirtland FCU’s Independence Credit Card has $0 annual fee.)

Many banks also charge a balance transfer fee—a percentage surcharge to move whole balances from another loan or credit card onto the new credit card. Kirtland FCU has zero balance transfer fees.

BETTER SERVICE

The focus on people means a credit union is probably more likely to offer friendly and personalized service to their members compared to large card issuers. And because credit unions are built to serve their members, getting a credit card from a credit union means you’ll have access to a whole host of financial products and services that may offer lower rates as well.

Want to see what Kirtland FCU’s Independence Credit Card can do for you? See how much you could save with a balance transfer!

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Displayed rate is the best available rate on transferred balances during this promotion and is based on top credit tier. Promotional rate valid through December 31, 2022. Remaining transferred balance as well as new purchases are subject to current approved APR. Annual percentage rate and balance transfer rate are based on credit history and other factors. Membership eligibility required. See a representative for complete details.

9-month certificate

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