While the biggest banks are suffering from a subprime mortgage fallout, community banks and credit unions haven’t had big losses. They never made risky loans.
Credit unions are different from other financial institutions because they are not-for-profit cooperatives. They are owned by the members and often operated by volunteer boards.
One financial analyst interviewed on Fox Business says the shareholders and board members in credit unions know their own money is at risk when they make a loan, so they are more conservative.
The capital in credit unions is at an all-time high, according to the Credit Unions National Association, Inc., in Madison, Wisc. It’s a safety cushion that protects them against loss and that allows them to continue in spite of recessions or turbulent financial markets.
They are known for share accounts, which may pay a little more interest than bank savings accounts, and for their auto loans, which may cost a little less. Most also offer mortgages.
The lifeline of credit union funds is particularly important now because big banks have tightened their lending standards and may only make loans to people with the highest credit scores.
Some credit unions can refinance subprime mortgages, and offer banking products no longer available from other lenders, including a five-year adjustable-rate mortgage. One reason: They don’t pay dividends to shareholders. The money is reinvested in loans to meet the needs of their members.
The American Bankers Association encourages consumers trying to consolidate debt or refinance mortgages to contact community banks. While they are typically conservative, according to The Wall Street Journal, they have plenty of money to lend.