For New Soldiers
AmeriCU Credit Union Welcomes You!
This page is designed to answer some of the questions we often receive from soldiers beginning their military careers:
Q. What’s the difference between a bank and a credit union?
A. Both are financial institutions that offer similar products and services, such as checking and savings accounts, loans, credit cards, and sometimes insurance and investments. The difference is that banks are for-profit corporations usually owned and controlled by stockholders. Credit unions are non-profit cooperative financial institutions owned and controlled by members. Credit unions are normally able to offer better rates, lower fees, and more personalized services.
Q. What is ChexSytsems?
A. ChexSystems is a consumer reporting agency that tracks negative and/or outstanding balances owed at financial institutions across the U.S. When you come in to open an account, most banks and credit unions (including AmeriCU) consult ChexSystems. If negative activity is reported, your account opening process may be denied. However, in some cases (with direct deposit only), AmeriCU will allow you to open a savings account. Once you provide proof that the other financial institution has been paid (as documented on that institution’s letterhead), and you are no longer reported in ChexSystems, you may begin to open further services, such as a checking account.
Q. Is it expensive to join AmeriCU? What are the minimum balances?
A. AmeriCU makes being a member easy and affordable. It’s just $5 to open an account if you live, work, worship or attend school anywhere in our eight-county footprint, and you’ll find that our fees are significantly lower than most banks. If you're ready to join, stop in and see us at any of our locations.
Q. I am already a member of a Credit Union at home. Can I do my banking at AmeriCU?
A. Good news! AmeriCU is among the 4,500+ credit unions that form network of Credit Union Service Centers throughout NY State and the USA. It’s a cooperative effort called “shared branching” that enables members to make deposits, withdrawals, balance inquiries, transfer money between accounts, cash checks, buy money orders, and even apply for a loan at any participating credit union location. So, if you are a member of a credit union that is on the shared branching network, you can conduct all your financial transactions right at AmeriCU. All you need is your account number. We even have apps for iPhone and Android!
Q. How can I bank if I am transfered or deployed?
A. We understand that sometimes, it’s not easy for you to do your banking in person. So, we offer FREE online banking and mobile banking (with apps for iPhone & Android) and FREE Online Bill Payment. Use Bank-to-Bank Transfer to move money to and from AmeriCU and other financial institutions. Check out PayPeople to transfer money to and from your AmeriCU account and others’ accounts at just about any financial institution in the country. (It’s the easy way to pay back your buddy for that pizza and wings!) AmeriCU also offers FinanceWorks, a FREE online personal financial management tool, which allows you to aggregate all your checking and savings accounts, credit cards, investments, etc. at all your financial institutions – all in one place. It’s much easier to budget and plan when you can see it all on one screen. You can use myVault to set goals, alert you when you’re over-spending, and help you stay on budget.
Q. What are payday lenders?
A. If you have past credit problems or no credit, be especially careful of falling victim to "payday lenders". These lenders target members of the military and often charge predatory interest rates. We have seen rates ranging from 34% APR all the way up to 95% APR. That means you could owe nearly double the amount that you originally borrowed! In the past, these lenders required borrowers to have their signature notarized, but now they recommend that you just have another soldier witness your signature. That way, no one will talk you out of it! But all too often, once you click the ‘ACCEPT’ button on the loan application, you are already obligated to this high-rate loan. Do NOT let anyone take advantage of you this way! If you turn to these lenders, you could end up owing a fortune with no way out, and destroy your credit. You have options! Together with Pentagon Federal Credit Union, AmeriCU offers the ARK (Asset Recovery Kit) loan for members of the military in amounts up to $500. You pay off the loan when you receive your next pay, and the cost is just a $6 processing fee with NO INTEREST. So, before you sign up for one of those online loans, come see us!
Q. What should I know when buying a vehicle?
A. AmeriCU can be a resource to you in helping you price vehicles so that you will know how much your trade-in or vehicle that you are thinking about purchasing is worth. We also offer loans on vehicles at much lower interest rates than you might find elsewhere. Shop around!
Q. How can I start off right or get back on track?
A. AmeriCU offers FREE financial planning services. Whether you need help budgeting, are interested in starting a savings plan, or want to make sure you are saving enough for retirement, we have registered investment advisors who can help you right at our locations on Fort Drum, at Griffiss Business Park, at our Headquarters on Black River Boulevard in Rome, at our Liverpool office, and at our Utica office on Commercial Drive.
Q. What is military saves?
A. AmeriCU participates in the Military Saves program, a growing network of organizations and individuals committed to helping and supporting military members and their loved ones build personal savings to provide for their immediate and long-term financial needs. Military Saves, which was developed by Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the military, launched throughout the Department of Defense in February 2007. It is part of two larger campaigns -- the DoD Financial Readiness Campaign, and the national America Saves campaign. While it is an ongoing campaign, the entire military community comes together to focus on financial readiness during Military Saves Week, usually the last full week in February.
AmeriCU Credit Union is PROUD to serve YOU. Please don’t hesitate to call on us as resource as you continue your career in the armed forces. We appreciate the sacrifices you make to serve our country, and we are happy to do whatever we can to support you!