Archive for the ‘Money’ Category

Courtesy Pay or Overdraft for debit or ATM cards.

November 15, 2011

If you have no money in your account and you pay for a purchase with a debit card, what do you want your Bank or Credit Union to do?

1.) Decline to pay. That way I won’t spend money I don’t have and pay fees for the privilege.
2.) Pay it and charge me a fee and give me a few days to get the money there. That way I won’t be embarrassed in front of people.

There is a law that says the Bank or Credit Union has to get your permission in writing to do #2. Some financial institutions would charge a large fee, $35 for example, for each transaction. The average fee is $29. So a movie ticket, popcorn at the snack bar, and coffee at the local coffee shop after could cost $105 in fees in addition to the actual costs. Or an ATM withdrawal could cost a lot more than the fee the ATM owner and your financial institution charge. Some financial institutions also charge another fee for every day your account balance remains negative.

Most accounts have a limit (say $200) that the financial institution will let you overdraft. Some of the financial institutions would add your allowable overdraft amount to the amount they reported as your “available balance” when you checked the ATM. Trying to fool you into thinking that you had more money in your account than you actually had. And encouraging you to rack up those fees.

Decide whether you want “courtesy pay” on your debit card before you open the checking account. Decide if you want “courtesy pay” on checks you write, which is a separate decision. Don’t sign up for anything you don’t want, no matter how persuasive the representative is.

This post applies equally to banks and credit unions.

“Courtesy.” I do not think that word means what you think it means.


1st United Services Credit Union

November 4, 2011

1st United Services Credit Union is very focused on the East Bay. They have the most branch offices (eleven) in Alameda and Contra Costa County of any C. U. in Oakland, and don’t need to use C.U. shared branching. List here includes their ATMs. The Co-op ATM network is also available for free. The annual meeting is in Pleasanton at the headquarters, so members may attend easily.

1st United Services Credit Union was one of the first credit unions in the State of California. The credit union was originally founded in 1932 as City & County Employees’ Credit Union to serve Alameda County Employees. 1st United Services C.U. has $788 million in assets, and 47 thousand members.

They make it easy to leave your bank with a Switch Kit (pdf)
To join you must put at least $25 in savings and $25 in checking.

The minimum balance listed for regular savings to earn interest is $100, but as of November 3, 2011, the rate is only 0.05%. Their highest savings rate is 2.02% on a 60-month bump certificate of at least $2000. If they advertise a higher rate on those certificates, you can bump up to the higher rate once during the term.

They have free 1st basic checking. No minimum balance required, no direct deposit required. Checks are $17.50 for 150 checks. Returned/bounced checks cost $25 each.

The member services agent recommended 1st interest checking. For $1000 minimum balance, you get a free box of checks each year and one $25 fee waived per year. The interest paid is 0.05%, so you’d earn at least fifty cents a year on your $1000 minimum balance.

They have a Sharing is caring program. Refer a friend and 1st United will donate $10 to Alameda County Food Bank or Toys for Tots. Sharing is Caring

CO-OP network: ATMs for Credit Unions

January 31, 2010

CO-OP network logo

Where can you find an ATM? How much will they charge you to use it? Which credit union has the most free ATMs?

Since credit unions have a limited number of branches and ATMs, almost all of them have joined the CO-OP network. This means that you can use an ATM owned by other credit unions. 7-11 store ATMs are also in the CO-OP network. That’s 28,000 ATMs nationwide, 34 in Oakland proper.

CO-OP network ATMs are surcharge-free. That means that the owner of the ATM doesn’t charge you a fee.

Typically, CO-OP network ATMs are free for credit union members to use. There are exceptions. Some accounts have a limited number of free ATM withdrawals. Some credit unions charge for using any ATM they don’t own. Check the fee disclosure for your credit union.

The CO-OP network also gives you access to over 800,000 ATMs worldwide through links to NYCE, STAR, Cirrus, Pulse and Plus, but these are not surcharge-free. Some credit unions will rebate the surcharge, depending on what account you have. Your credit union will probably also charge you to use these ATMs, although they may allow a limited number of uses for free.

The issue of which Oakland credit union has the most free ATMs will have to wait while I research whether Bank of the West has joined the CO-OP network and whether any other CUs belong to the additional networks that Alliant CU belongs to.


Other Coast Live Oak posts in the Credit Union series:
Move Your Money to Oakland,
Patelco Credit Union,
Provident CU: Super Rewards Checking,
Alliant Credit Union: high savings rates
Oakland Credit Unions: the complete list
Is my money safe in a credit union?

Is my money safe in a credit union?

January 25, 2010

Is putting your money in a credit union safer than hiding it in your sock drawer or burying it in the backyard? Yes. Is it insured? Yes.

Your deposits in most credit unions are insured by the National Credit Union Administration, NCUA. The NCUA is the equivalent of the FDIC. The FDIC is for banks and savings and loans, the NCUA is for credit unions.


NCUAs share insurance fund is a federal fund backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government and they display the NCUA logo. That’s as safe as it is possible to get in the United States. If you don’t trust the U.S. government, some credit unions are insured by American Share Insurance (ASI), a private insurer of credit union savings. ASI has a higher insurance limit. Patelco used to be insured by ASI. The rest of this post is about the NCUA.

How much is insured by NCUA? Up to $250,000 per person per ownership category per credit union. Common ownership categories are “individual,” “joint,” “IRA,” and “revocable trust.”

If you are single, you can put $250, 000 in individual accounts, and up to another $250,000 in your IRAs. If you are married(1), you can also put $250,000 in a joint account. In addition, your spouse can put the same in their accounts. If you want to deposit more money than that, you will need an additional credit union.

The NCUA has a good FAQ explaining how their insurance works.

In 2008, NCUA insurance was increased from $100,000 to $250,000. It was scheduled to return to $100K at the end of 2009. Recent legislation has extended the $250K coverage to 2013.

What happens when a credit union fails? Usually the NCUA transfers your accounts to another credit union. Patelco acquired Sterlent and Cal State 9 credit unions recently. Friends of mine report that the transition went smoothly, although Patelco told Cal State 9 members that they could keep their same account numbers and that wasn’t true.


(1) Joint tenancy with someone who is not your legal spouse can result in gift taxes. Please consult a tax professional and work to legalize same-sex marriages.

Other Coast Live Oak posts in the Credit Union series:
Move Your Money to Oakland,
PatelCo Credit Union,
Provident CU: Super Rewards Checking,
Alliant Credit Union: high savings rates
Oakland Credit Unions: the complete list

Oakland Credit Unions: the complete list

January 22, 2010

Here is the complete list of credit unions with offices in Oakland. From the NCUA database and my own sleuthing. Let me know if I missed any.

Oakland Municipal CU: Field of membership includes all who live, work or worship in the City of Oakland or San Leandro.

Kaiser Lakeside CU, a division of  SafeAmerica CU: Anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in the California counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, or Santa Clara are eligible to join SafeAmerica Credit Union. When I joined this CU, they told me it was enough to know someone in one of those counties. THIS CU IS NOT FEDERALLY INSURED.

Pacific Service CU: PG&E employees and customers.

The Golden 1 CU: anyone in 34 California counties.

Peoples’ Federal Credit Union: Oakland Flatlands geographic region of the California Bay Area: This area encompasses North Oakland, West Oakland, Chinatown, San Antonio, Fruitvale, Central East Oakland, and Elmhurst. Anyone who lives, works, worships, or volunteers in this area. That’s the only time I’ve seen “volunteers.”

Provident CU: Anyone who lives or works in Alameda County, Contra Costa County and 8 others. Plus many other ways to be eligible.

Patelco CU: Anyone who lives or works in Alameda County, Contra Costa County and 8 others. Not the same list as Provident. Plus many other ways to be eligible. Not the same list as Provident.

Alliant CU: A long list of qualifying organizations, many in Oakland since they absorbed some local CUs. My favorites are Kaiser Permanente (yes, your HMO membership makes you eligible) and “Local PTA.”

1st United Services Credit Union: Anyone who lives, regularly works, or attends school in Alameda or Contra Costa Counties California, as well as any and all businesses, corporations, organizations, or associations located in such counties. (added January 30, 2010)

Restricted membership Credit Unions:

Hanin Federal Credit Union: members of St. Andrew Kim Korean Catholic Church in Oakland, Korean American Coalition. It’s possible that anyone can join the Korean American Coalition, but I couldn’t tell from the website.

Chevron Texaco Credit Union: restricted to Chevron Texaco or Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw, Pittman employees and families.

East Bay Postal CU. Restricted to postal workers. No website. 480 Roland Way, Oakland. (510) 568-7150.

ILWU – FSC Restricted to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

Matson Employees CU. I couldn’t find a website or an address. If you work there, ask human resources.

ONIZED Oakland CU. I couldn’t find any information about this one either.

Sea West Coast Guard CU For the Coast Guard, Homeland Security, Armed Forces, and some others.

Taylor Memorial United Methodist FCU. No website. 12th and Adeline, Oakland. (510) 465-1734.

Utility District CU. Employees of EBMUD and their immediate family members are eligible to join.


Other Coast Live Oak posts in the Credit Union series:
Move Your Money to Oakland,
PatelCo Credit Union,
Provident CU: Super Rewards Checking,
Alliant Credit Union: high savings rates

Alliant Credit Union: high savings rates

January 15, 2010

Alliant Credit Union

If you want to save money and collect interest on it, Alliant Credit Union has good interest rates.

Regular savings earns 2.00%. Contrast that with the 0.05% offered by, for example, Wells Fargo. The Alliant minimum is $100 to earn that rate, and $5 to have an account/be a member. You can withdraw this money at any time. Or add more.

Alliant does not handle cash. They will write you a check. Or you can go to an ATM or Patelco CU to get cash. I think that’s odd, but I’ll bet they save a lot of money on security that way.

Their certificate rates are also good. You can pick the exact time you want your certificate to mature. That could be useful if you have a known expense coming up, like college tuition, and want to get high interest and safety while you wait. Currently, they are offering 3.0% on 48 to 60 month certificates.

Alliant CU started out as the CU for United Airlines in Chicago. The first item on their fee schedule is “airplane loan fee.” They’ve absorbed several other credit unions including KaiPerm. So all Kaiser Permanente members are eligible to join. Other Oakland organizations that I recognize are Allen Temple Baptist Church, Bay Alarm Company, CH2MHill, Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. The “local PTA” is probably the loophole for anyone not otherwise covered. Check with your local school — Crocker Highlands Elementary’s PTA only cost $5 and they’d let anyone join.

Previous post in this series: Provident CU: Super Rewards Checking.

Provident CU: Super Rewards Checking

January 13, 2010

Provident Credit Union offers high interest on their super rewards checking account. Currently 2.51% APY on the first $25,000. There are several hoops to jump through, though.

  1. Direct deposit. I arranged for an automatic deposit from savings at another financial institution, since we have no regular paychecks or pensions at this time.
  2. 10 check card transactions per month. Not ATM transactions. We like the new Oakland parking kiosks because they take our cards! This is the hardest one because you have to meet it every month. If you don’t, the interest rate drops to 0.100%
  3. Electronic statements. I really resisted this, but I’m getting used to it.

There are many ATMs that are free for Provident CU members (all 7-11 stores have them), but if there is a charge, Provident will rebate up to $2.50. There is no minimum balance and there is no monthly charge. They will take overdrafts out of the Provident account that you specify at no charge if you have enough money there. You can make deposits and get checks at PatelCo branches, which is important since the only Oakland Provident CU branch is the one on Edgewater Drive.

There is a credit card rewards program for the check card, but I didn’t think it was worth signing up for. They have e-bill pay, but it failed spectacularly the only time I used it. I’m going to have to try it again some time.

Provident also offers a 3% APY Health Savings checking account for those with High Deductible Health Plans.

Their certificate rates are a little lower than PatelCo’s.

If you don’t live in Oakland, there are a lot of ways to be eligible to join Provident CU. Check the “Join Provident” button and the “Association Membership” category.

Previous in this series: Patelco CU

Patelco Credit Union

January 13, 2010

Patelco Credit Union

Patelco Credit Union is the most useful of all the Oakland credit unions. They are the “shared branch” for all the other credit unions. Everyone who lives or works in Alameda County is eligible to join. If you aren’t lucky enough to live here or be otherwise eligible, you can join Community Association for Engaging Youth.

The first thing to notice is their “new member” Certificate with a rate of 5.0% APY (Annual Percentage Yield). That’s the highest rate you can get for insured savings today. Unfortunately, it’s only for one year and exactly $1000. They will even give you the $1 to open a “share account” aka “tiered savings account” when you become a member.  Their other certificate rates are good, but generally not the highest.

I like their youth accounts to help young people learn to manage their money. Starting at age 7, kids can have their own savings. And at 12, they can have an ATM card, and at 14, a checking account. I remember the savings and loan that advertised “free checking for everyone” insisting that my 16-year-old could only open a checking account with a linked $10,000 savings account. So I really appreciated the ease with which my younger child opened a Patelco account. We miss the Gr8 rate of 8% on the first $1K for a youth account.

“Patelco was started in 1936 to serve employees of the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company. Since then, Patelco has grown to become the 13th largest credit union in the United States with over 40 branches, 250,000 members and over $4 billion in assets.” (ref.)  It’s the 4th largest in California.

Next in this series: Provident CU: Super Rewards Checking

Move Your Money to Oakland

January 13, 2010

There is a new movement afoot to Move Your Money to local banks. Here’s the website with a cute movie: This movement has been reported on in the Huffington Post, by Oakland Seen on their facebook page, and by Oakland Grown.

The Move Your Money site doesn’t cover credit unions. That’s a major omission.

So I’m starting a series about money in Oakland.  Starting with credit unions I am familiar with.

Different people need different things from their financial institutions. Some people need low minimum balances, and low fees. Some people need low loan rates. My concerns are mostly with savings and how much the institution will pay me.  There is a need for posts speaking to the other concerns. If you write them, please drop a link here, ok?

Next in the series: Patelco Credit Union