Credit unions typically have a limited number of branches in a local area. If you are away from your credit union’s service area, some credit unions participate in a service that gives you access to banking services at other participating credit unions near you. It’s called shared branching. The branch you visit, although belonging to a different credit union, acts like a branch of your own credit union. All participating credit unions bonded together give local credit unions a national footprint of branches.
I know about this service but I have never used it until now, because Alliant Credit Union, where I have my primary checking account, does not advertise shared branching service. Among 3,500 credit unions in the CO-OP network, only 1,800 participate in shared branching. So many don’t participate because every time a member visits a shared branch, the home credit union has to pay a fee to the network and to the credit union that performs the service.
Source: CO-OP Financial Services, retrieved on October 6, 2015.
Alliant Credit Union also makes it unnecessary to use shared branching to begin with. Although it’s in Chicago and I’m in California, I never had the need to go into a branch, shared or otherwise. I’m able to do everything online or through ATMs, including free bill payment, next-day ACH transfers both ways, reimbursement of ATM fees, and depositing cash and check to ATMs operated by another bank or credit union.
This changed when I opened a CD with Northwest Federal Credit Union recently. Although the maximum for the CD was $100k, the online application limited funding to $15k maximum. I had to figure out how to deposit an additional amount to the CD.
Only later I learned if you wanted a higher funding amount you could include such request in the note section. Nowhere in the online application said that.
After I linked my Alliant checking account as an external account in online banking at Northwest, it worked only as a destination, not as a source, for transfers. Usually banks want you to transfer money into them. Here Northwest only allowed pushing out money, not pulling in money.
Later I learned pulling in money will be enabled only after one becomes a member for six months and it’s maximum $2,500 per day. It seems to me the ideal time to convince someone to move money to you is when they are new.
I thought about linking the other way and pushing the money from Alliant to Northwest, but it wasn’t obvious what was the account number to use for this purpose. Northwest’s online banking doesn’t show the full account number. They really don’t want to make it easy for you to send them money.
So I figured I’d try shared branching to make the deposit. Finding a shared branch near me was easy. I told the teller there that I wanted to make a deposit to a CD at a different credit union. She asked me for the name of the credit union and my member number. She was able to pull up my account with just those two pieces of information.
However, she said depositing to the CD wasn’t an option, even though the CD was an add-on CD, which allowed additional deposits. My only option was to deposit to the member savings account. Oh well, what can you do? Depositing to the savings account at least would get the money closer to its intended destination. I wrote a check to myself. She asked for my ID. After I signed on an LCD screen, she gave me a deposit receipt. That was easy.
Back to my computer, I was able to see the deposit online right away. Great, but the money was still a small step away from where I wanted it to be. I tried moving the money from the member savings account to the CD in online banking. I couldn’t. The CD wasn’t an option in the transfer dropdown.
I sent a secure message through online banking to customer service. They moved the money to the CD for me. Whew!
Later I learned although you can’t move money from savings to CD in online banking you can do it if you download the credit union’s mobile app. So many secrets!
Although shared branching was easy enough, I wish I didn’t have to use it to begin with for simply making a deposit. After visiting a shared branch and causing the credit union to pay a fee, I still had to contact customer service and ask them to do the last leg. I’m glad that I only had to do this dance once in three years. I much prefer Alliant Credit Union’s setup, which lets me do everything easily myself.
Anybody can join Alliant Credit Union with a one-time $10 donation to a supported charity.
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