The credit union difference -- people helping people
Credit unions are member-owned, not-for-profit community financial cooperatives that are vital alternatives for consumers. Credit unions work for and benefit their members and not shareholders like banks. They exemplify the "People Helping People" philosophy and are committed to strengthening their local communities.
Credit unions return earnings to their members in the form of lower loan rates, higher interest on deposits, and lower to no cost on fees. There are no outside shareholders that benefit from credit union earnings.
In Illinois alone, according to September 2020 Credit Union National Association (CUNA) data, member-owned credit unions provided $400 million in benefits in 2020 to their members. The biggest savings came in the way of lower loan rates equating to $337.8 million in savings.
During the COVID pandemic, credit unions have stepped up the "People Helping People" philosophy by modifying members' loan terms, deferring loan payments, and waiving fees to members that were impacted hardest economically. These measures were necessary and helped ensure that members were able to keep food on their table amid financial uncertainty.
Chartered in 1937, Kane County Teachers (KCT) Credit Union was formed through the efforts of Martha Black, a teacher in the then-Elgin Public School District, and E. Earl McCoy, then Kane County Superintendent of Schools. Since that day, we have been dedicated to living the credit union philosophy of people helping people. Originally, KCT was chartered to serve teachers of Kane County. Throughout the years, KCT has broadened our membership field to our surrounding counties. Today we serve people who live or work in the Illinois counties of DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kendall, McHenry and Cook (west of Route 83) as well as members' immediate family members.
KCT Credit Union encompasses these values in everything that we do. Our product line has been developed to help everyone achieve their financial goals regardless of their current financial situation. Our Debt Checkup process allows us to ensure that our members are paying the least amount of interest or pay off debt sooner by reviewing current debt obligations and refinancing to lower cost loans.
Our Get Out of Debt (GOOD) Loan was created in order to help pay off high interest revolving credit card debt by providing a closed-end loan that is priced as low as 7.99% APR for up to $10,000 and 36 months (rate includes discounts. See GOOD.kctcu.org for details).
Our Premier Membership program awards our most active users with a pool of $50,000 as a giveback for use of KCT products and services. In 2020, 551 KCT members achieved Premier Membership status and each received $90.74 in extra dividends.
For KCT members that were negatively impacted by the COVID pandemic, we offered loan deferments in order to minimize financial burden. As of December 2020, KCT deferred loans totaling $4.5 million. KCT also believes in the principle of serving our member-owners with financial literacy and education. We know that your financial health is just as important as your physical health.
This is why we are advocates for our member-owners in times of economic turmoil and why we have offered our financial wellness seminars for free. Due to the pandemic, KCT began offering our financial wellness educational seminars virtually to ensure that our communities are getting quality educational resources in order to navigate their economic situation.
KCT strives every day to live up to its motto of "Building Stronger Communities Together" by partnering with community organizations. In 2020, through our Affinity Card Programs, KCT gave back over $28,000 to area school districts and educational/public library foundations with our revenue share program.
Our Affinity Card Program allows our members to select their free affinity card design and use that card for everyday purchases. It's our card with purpose, as a portion of the transaction revenue is donated back to the community organization. We also donated an additional $25,000 in grant money to our Affinity Partners to assist them during the COVID pandemic. To learn more about KCT Credit Union, visit kctcu.org.
Since 1908 credit unions have served the financial needs of those typically ostracized by traditional for-profit financial institutions. They are a reflection of the local community and focus on improving members' financial well-being and advancing the communities they serve. As the country's only member-owned, democratically controlled financial institutions, credit unions remain an extremely popular financial alternative for more than 125 million Americans.
• R. Michael Lee is president and CEO of KCT Credit Union.