As part of REAL Solutions®, credit unions are offering programs
and services because members have a need and meeting that need is the
right thing to do, whether or not the credit union makes a profit. The
effort seeks to reduce dependency on predatory financial providers,
encourage saving and wealth-building, build creditworthiness, increase
financial self-sufficiency and improve the economic well-being of
Examples of REAL Solutions® include:
Making loans for as little as $100 for members in need.
Offering services to New Americans, for example by opening "safe
accounts," facilitating documentation to help recent immigrants obtain
identification, employment and an entry into our nation's tax system,
and facilitating lower-cost wire services and translating information
Partnering with the county to offer low interest loans to
help single parents obtain transportation or day care so they can find
or maintain employment.
Referring members to a "Get Checking" coursethat teaches
them to manage a checking account so they can gain or regain
checking account privileges.
Working individually with members who have suffered financial
setbacks such as a job loss or illness so they can maintain their
Assisting low-income tax filers with free tax
preparation services, securing a fast, free refund via
direct-deposit (the no-cost alternative to predatory refund anticipation
loans) and directing filers to tax credits and other wealth-building
opportunities for which they qualify.
Offering a pre-paid debit card to help people who are ineligible
for checking accounts and charging for that service just a couple
dollars a month – less than half what other providers charge.
Not assessing fees or penalties where other providers do and
looking for ways to protect members from extra charges. Some examples
include not increasing interest rates on credit cards because of a late
payment, offering longer grace periods, processing checks to minimize
(not maximize) overdraft fees, etc.
Matching funds in IDA accounts that encourage low-income
people to begin saving.
Offering Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) -- portable savings
accounts that can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses tax-free
for individuals and families who carry high-deductible health insurance
Improving members' financial literacy by offering free
financial workshops and seminars, a suite of financial tools online and
offering free financial learning opportunities as part of Money
Smart Week Wisconsin in October.
Returning earnings to members in the form of loan interest
rebates, distributed to anyone who had a loan with us during the
year in the form of a check or a credit to their account.
Referring members to not-for-profit credit counselors for
help with debt problems in order to avoid unnecessary bankruptcies.
Providing one-on-one budget coaching and offering other free
"personal" services like explaining credit reports so members can
improve their creditworthiness and qualify for better loan rates.
Lowering costs for first time homebuyers by waiving closing
costs and offering HLPR loans that cap interest rates and have other
costs absorbed by the CU so that borrowers can enter the mortgage market
gaining more and risking less.
These are just a few examples of ways credit unions are creating
stronger families and communities by providing financial solutions -
REAL Solutions® - that meet a need. By participating in REAL
Solutions®, you'll learn countless more ways to meaningfully affect
people's lives. You decide how your credit union can best reach out.
Your options are limitless when it comes to offering your members REAL
Solutions® - so don't be afraid to think about ideas outside
of this list. In fact, if you have a unique offering and would like it
recognized in our newsletter, tell your story to Melissa
Polley by calling (800) 242-0833, Ext. 6045.