Are you Financially Fit?

Dennis Roberts, Marketing Co-ordinator, Education Credit Union


Prior to becoming a member at Education Credit Union, I had little knowledge of what a credit union was. I was a customer at a major bank and quite honestly I was very unhappy with their services. I felt like a number; always having to deal with a different person every time I went in. I had to line up and wait for someone to assist me. Upon reaching the front of the line, I found I was rushed through my banking requirements because the next customer was waiting. Even getting a loan seemed to be a discretionary thing. Although my credit was good, I was often randomly refused.

At ECU things are quite different. By simply investing $5, I became a member-owner at ECU. That single share gives me a voice to help set the direction of the credit union, and allows me to vote for the members of the board at the AGM or even become a board member myself, if I wish. I couldn't do this at a major bank.

Furthermore, ECU offers me all the financial services/products that I was getting at the bank, except that ECU's monthly service fees are up to 50% cheaper. In addition, interest rates are very competitive, they have great payback options, wonderful investment offers, amazing staff and a nation-wide surcharge-free ATM network. I am greeted by name, given exceptional customer service, appreciated, and never rushed. Plus, ECU's three locations are convenient, and there are numerous credit union ATMs available across the tri-cities as well as Canada. I even have the ding free locator app on my smartphone that helps me find a credit union or ATM quickly, wherever I am.

ECU offers a full range of banking and financial services specifically tailored to employees of the education sector. That means ECU is dedicated to serving members from custodians to administrative staff to teachers. As a matter of fact, ECU was started in 1972 by two Waterloo Region District School Board teachers, Ray Eaton and Gord Gamey, who believed in the long-standing principles held by credit unions; that of democratic ownership - one share, one vote - personal service and responsiveness to members' needs. Since then, ECU, together with our Wealth Management department, has grown and come a long way with over 10,500 members and over $223 million dollars in combined assets.

When I joined ECU, I sat down with a Member Services Representative and chose a chequing account tailored to my needs. Service fees on accounts are very low yet they offer full-service banking with a variety of accounts for children, youths, young adults, adults, seniors and businesses. There are accounts for every one of every age and at every stage in life. Plus, children, youth and senior accounts have no fees! All other account fees are much lower than those of the national banks and if I use an ATM that is on the credit union network, I never get dinged with service fees. This results in huge yearly savings for our members. There are over 3200 surcharge fee ATMs on the credit union network. So, it's really easy and very convenient.

Next, I opened a savings account. The ECU CU BILL savings account offers some of the highest savings rates available. So now a good portion of my income is earning me money. With that said, I was able to switch my RRSPs over with ease. With ECU's extremely competitive rates, I had options ranging from RRSPs to Tax-free Savings Accounts to GICs.

Then I switched my mortgage to ECU. Mortgages are offered at a discount from the market rate for members, and the mortgage repayment program is one of the best available. I also had the option of payroll deduction, how perfect!

Last but not least, I switched my car loan over to ECU. With ECU's competitive rates I was able to save even more with my car loan.

However, the best part of my banking experience is the option of online/mobile banking. When I'm away or at the cottage I do it all remotely on my smartphone. I pay my bills online, transfer money, send and receive e-transfers, and check my balance online. It's easy and convenient and I'm happy I didn't have to give up online/mobile banking when I switched from a national bank.

Even my niece became a member of ECU when looking for a student loan to attend university. She liked the competitive low rates and the payback options that were available.

Plus, as a member you can take advantage of many great offers. Every Christmas the lending department puts on the hugely popular Stocking Stuffer Campaign which offers loans of up to $5,000 with low interest rates. I took out a loan for $1500 last Christmas and paid it back easily with a payback option tailored to me. Again, payments are automatically deducted from my pay cheque.

When I added up everything I was paying for at a national bank, it amounted to a large amount of money that I was basically just throwing away. Now I'm saving hundreds of dollars a year at ECU and building a healthy financial future.

Hmmm ...perhaps I'll retire early!

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