The Drawbacks of College Credit Unions

Students at Louisiana State University get a nice perk the first day they step onto campus — an on-site student credit union. Having a college-run bank on campus not only helps new students obtain local help in managing their money, but there’s potential to snag some great deals, too.

The demand for good financial help is certainly there. According to a recent survey from Capital One Bank (Stock Quote: COF), 45% of all high school seniors polled said they are “unsure or unprepared to manage their own banking and personal finances.”

But there are downsides to parking your hard-earned college savings at a student credit union, too. Most students don’t have more than a few hundred dollars in their account at one time, so getting the best bang for their buck is particularly important (especially when it comes to avoiding bank fees and penalties).

Here are some potential red flags to watch out for when handing your money over to a college credit union.

Limited hours. Sure, the college credit union is right there on campus, but is it open enough to meet your needs? Most school credit unions are closed on weekends and they usually close fairly early on weekdays, too. The LSU campus credit union, for example, is closed on weekends and closes earlier (4:30 p.m.) on weekdays. So if you get a check from dad in the mail and want to deposit it as soon as possible, you’ll need to get to the credit union early.

The school year is only nine months. Chances are you’re not on campus on a year-round basis. That’s a problem during holidays and summer vacation. When you want to deposit a check or deal with an overdraft problem but can’t because your school’s credit union is 150 miles away, that’s an inconvenience.

Limited ATMs. Big banks have customer service issues, but they have enough ATMs. Typically, student credit unions don’t have a lot of ATMs, so when you use your bank card at a non-credit union ATM, you’ll likely be charged a fee. It’s also tough to make deposits at a bank ATM that’s not affiliated with your credit union.

This isn’t to knock all student credit unions; it’s just a reality check. Campus credit unions have plenty going for them, especially as credit unions traditionally offer better bank deposit rates and personal service than big banks.

As always, do your part when checking out your college’s credit union. Talk to the manager, ask about services and find out about the issues listed above. College is hard enough without worrying about having access to your money. Ask the right questions and get the right answers to make your college banking experience A-plus.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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