Credit unions offer members unique services to track their credit
Tiffany Esshaki/C&G Newspapers (metro-Detroit)
5 October 2016
METRO DETROIT — From buying a car to getting that dream job, our credit scores play a larger role in our lives than we may think — or maybe want to admit.
The ratings that credit bureaus give us all to indicate our reliability in repaying our debts can decide how much we pay for financed purchases, whether we’re eligible for certain housing and so much more. But how we can build good credit seems more like a secret code that many customers have yet to crack.
For those who do their banking with a credit union, there may be help available.
Janice Quigg, senior marketing specialist with OUR Credit Union, said credit unions benefit when their members are financially literate.
“We want to make sure we’re offering a trusting environment for our members and potential members. Going to a financial institution should be about helping them, not trying to get them further into debt,” said Quigg.
To build that trust, OUR Credit Union offers tons of resources on its website to members and nonmembers alike to explain the basics of building good credit and rebuilding credit after a few unfortunate hits.
But how do we know if our credit needs mending?
Quigg said she advises her members to review all of their credit scores annually. With more than one rating agency to choose from, she said customers can pull a report each business quarter and effectively monitor their financial records all year long.
“We suggest they go to AnnualCreditReport.com. That’s where you’re going to get the three agencies, and you won’t have to jump through all those hoops like on other sites. There are other (websites) that offer you a free credit score, but you have to sign up for all this stuff or sign up for a trial of their services, and they kind of con you into buying (their program).”
Lake Michigan Credit Union offers similar materials and the chance to sit down one-on-one with a credit union staffer to review your financial history and talk about options.
“Whether it’s a new account or a new loan, we pull credit and give members the chance to review it with us right there. We can see where we can help you save money, or if you have good credit, show you how you can protect that,” said Tania Elonzae, Farmington Hills branch manager at Lake Michigan Credit Union.
Elonzae explained that the face-to-face interaction with a financial expert is important because no two credit history stories are alike.
“Some of our members have gone through bankruptcy, especially with the whole housing crash. So a lot of people lost their homes or jobs or whatever the case may be,” she said. “If we see that some unexpected life event happened that caused (poor credit), we can maybe offer some kind of help. Or we can suggest ways, like maybe a small $500 Visa card or a small secured loan to start rebuilding that credit, especially if we see they had stellar credit before. We want to find out the big picture first.”
Slowly, by making payments in full from month to month, even the worst financial offenders can get their heads above water. Elonzae said it doesn’t take as long as most would think.
“If someone’s had a bankruptcy and we help them get through it and a year later they’re able to get a mortgage — which has happened several times — that’s good for our members and for our credit union,” she said.
Those who need more complex help rebuilding their score can see a debt counselor like GreenPath Financial Wellness. Quigg said OUR Credit Union has a partnership in place with GreenPath to give members a discount on advising services.
Along the same lines, Elonzae said Lake Michigan Credit Union offers members a discount on LifeLock identity theft protection and credit monitoring.
While we all spend differently, the road to repaving our credit starts in the same place: asking for help.
“We just take the time to educate members on credit, because many people just aren’t educated in that area,” Elonzae said. “We want them to know what’s on their credit report and what that means and what it means going forward.”