- A few months ago, like many struggling Americans, I had
my credit line frozen at my local bank. I hadn't done anything wrong, and
have always paid my monthly installment payment on time, but I learned
from a bank employee at the institution, which had once been a small family-owned
operation but had earlier this year been acquired by a regional bank, that
most of the bank's home-equity lines of credit were being similarly frozen
and "reviewed" because the bank had lent a lot of money to a
housing development that was underwater and facing bankruptcy. I was told
I could simply apply for a new credit line, and pay off the old one, but
there was a hitch: I'd be paying almost 3% more per month in interest than
with the old loan.
- More recently, I went in to the bank with a check I had
just received, a bit late, from a magazine for which I write regularly.
Because the payment was late, so were some of my bills, so I asked a bank
officer, as I had occasionally done over the years, to okay the check for
immediate credit as a courtesy, which would allow me to pay those bills.
I was turned down. "We don't offer that service anymore,"
he said. "Your check has to clear, which could take two days."
- When I pointed out that what I wanted to pay was my mortgage,
which was owed to the same bank, and that the money, in any case, would
be in the bank's hands either way, he said, "Sorry, that's our policy."
The final blow came when I learned that some company in China had
accessed my account, pulling out first a few pennies in two trial electronic
transactions, and then hundreds of dollars. The bank put a stop to the
problem when I notified them, but it took a month for them to refund me
my money, even though the fraud should have been spotted by them right
away, and it was the bank's fault, not mine.
- Fed up with all these rip-offs, I went looking for an
alternative, and happily found one: a local credit union, in this case
one called Freedom Credit Union.
- Walk into Freedom Credit Union's office and you immediately
sense that something's different. The staff members are relaxed. There's
a friendly play area full of toys for little kids. There are also lavatories
right off the lobby (when is the last time you saw a bank that had rest
rooms for its customers?)...
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