In the financial world, being “military strong” means having specialized financial products and service to support those fighting for America’s freedom.
For decades, credit unions have filled this demand; meeting the needs of military personnel and their families well beyond the typical checking and savings-type relationship.
One unique aspect of military credit union membership is that the men and women of the U.S. armed forces can benefit from hometown financial products and services, while working throughout the world.
Credit unions like Wright-Patt Credit Union (Fairborn OH) are just one example of how it meets the needs of military members on base. “We have three on-base credit union member centers (branches),” says Tracy Fors, vice president of marketing and business development. “Our focus is to ensure military members have the right financial tools they need so they can achieve their financial goals. In some cases, that means providing them with financial counseling and education. In other cases, it means sitting down with them to help them map out a savings plan for their life after the military.”
Just recently, Fors say that Wright-Patt CU worked with over 1,000 Department of Defense members during the furloughs. “For those members living paycheck to paycheck, they needed someone to sit down with them to create a budget or to learn about loan options. We worked closely with the base to make sure those affected knew we were here to help them at any point in time.”
Sonya McDonald from Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union (Live Oak, TX) talks about how Randolph-Brooks FCU helped members during the sequester and government shutdown as well. “We go above and beyond to assist military members and their families in uncertain financial circumstances. For example, we offered assistance to those affected by sequestration-related furloughs– giving them unique loan options to help them through the difficulties associated with decreases in pay. We have also extended provisional credits to military and civil service members when faced with delayed pay because of government shutdown issues. During the October government shutdown, we gave provisional credits to more than 800 government workers and members who needed funds to tide them over while waiting for Congress to reach an agreement.”
Although a standard checking or savings account can help maintain funds, many military personnel seek an account that will address their unique needs. “We have a checking account that is special to the military,” says Amy McConnell, digital marketing and public relations manager at Belvoir Federal Credit Union (Woodbridge, VA). “It pays interest, has no monthly fees and even pays you when you pay a bill online. We also offer ATM rebates on certain accounts that essentially make every ATM, your ATM no matter where you do the transaction. We also have mobile banking apps that can be accessed from anywhere you get a cell signal.”
Pentagon Federal Credit Union (Alexandria, VA) has products like the PenFed Defender American Express Card and programs like Military Heroes, Dream Makers and an Asset Recovery Kit that acts as an alternative to a payday loan.
"PenFed and the PenFed Foundation give back to the military community through a variety of financial products and philanthropic initiatives. It's our way of showing gratitude to our nation's defenders," said Christopher Flynn, senior executive vice president of the PenFed Foundation. The Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides necessary resources to military members in order to secure their financial future.
Wright-Patt offers both a First-Time Auto Buying Program as well as a Dream Makers Home Buying program.
Being a pillar of the community post-service is just as important as helping the member while they serve. “ Our Business Services program was established to help our members who have a dream of starting their own business,” states a Navy Federal Credit Union (Vienna, VA) spokesperson. “Nobody knows this better than member Michael Botticello, a U.S. Navy veteran who started Custom Coin Holders in Atoka, Tennessee.”
“Woodworking had always been a passion of Michael's. Being in the military, he knew there was a market for coin holders, so he decided to sell his work. His products -- handcrafted wood military challenge coin holders - have now sold in 50 states, in 12 different countries, on four continents, and to thousands of civilians, military members, veterans, and their families. Just recently, Custom Coin Holders sold items to the Japanese Imperial Navy and French soldiers based out of the Navy Exchange in Djibouti, Africa.”
“Supporting Michael’s visions and dreams and seeing the success of Custom Coin Holders is the epitome of why we do whatever we can to help military families succeed. We're thankful for their service and are proud to serve them.”
“Navy Federal is there to assist and improve the financial well-being of our members through every stage of their life. This includes milestones such as opening their first savings account, buying a car or home, and saving for retirement.”
McDonald says that Randolph-Brooks is the top Patriot Express Lender in its area. “These loans assist our veterans and their families in establishing business ventures and stimulating the local economy. In 2009, RBFCU was honored nationally for our commitment to SBA lending, including our Patriot Express program.”
From building a new business to making sure a deployed member’s account is working in their favor, military credit unions throughout the country work hard to support those who support the country.