The most wonderful time of the year?

As sure as Christmas follows Thanksgiving, credit unions across the country are closing out the year by issuing rebates or patronage dividends to members in good standing. Whatever you call them, these payouts are individual institutions' way of returning some of their good fortune from the past year back to members. While many CUs offer such payouts, they are not universal across the industry, and many longtime credit union professionals have debated their effectiveness, noting that members would be better served by offering lower rates and fees year-round rather than issuing a return at the end of the year.

Differing opinions aside, here's a look at some of this year's payouts.
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Goldenwest CU

Goldenwest Credit Union in Ogden< Utah will return more than $2 million to members on Dec. 31, bringing the CU’s total member returns since 2004 to over $15 million.

“As a board of directors, we have placed great importance on enriching the credit union’s value for our membership,” said Bill Hart, Goldenwest’s chairman of the board. “Our governance philosophy and strategic planning have permitted us to declare a record-breaking dividend while sufficiently protecting the assets of the credit union and planning for future growth.”

This year’s return represents a 4.40% APY paid over and above Goldenwest’s stated monthly 0.10% APY. Members will earn 4.50% for December on primary, secondary, Christmas Club and IRA shares, with the amount each member receives varying based on their accounts’ average daily balance throughout the year.

Goldenwest has returned $1 million or more to members each year since 2014. The credit union returned more than $1.9 million to members last year, $1.75 million to members in 2017, $1.4 million in 2016, $1.1 million in 2015 and $1 million in 2014.

The credit union's most recent call report shows about $19.7 million in net income for the first three quarters of 2019, a 34% increase over the same period last year.
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Wright-Patt CU

Wright-Patt Credit Union in Beavercreek, Ohio will kick off 2020 with a $10 million special patronage dividend for members.

The funds will be distributed Jan. 3 with each recipient’s amount varying by the depth of their relationship with the institution.

Members earn 10 basis points each for average annual loan balances and share balances, along with $45 for each first mortgage, $5 for using e-statements, $5 or $10 for debit card usage (depending on frequency), $5 for active mobile banking usage and more.

The credit union claims to have returned more than $75 million to members over the course of the last decade. In 2018 it gave back $8.6 million and $8 million in 2017.
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Scott Credit Union

Scott Credit Union in Edwardsville, Ill. has returned more than $1 million to members in a bonus dividend and loan rebate, for a total of over $12 million given back during the last dozen years.

Members of the $1.2 billion-asset institution received an additional 1.75% APY bonus dividend on deposits and a rebate of 1.75% on any interest they paid this year on loans and credit cards.

The credit union has paid dividends to members for nearly three full decades.

“We have been able to issue a bonus dividend to our members for 28 consecutive years,” CEO Frank Padak said in a press release. “For the past 13 years we also were able to give the loan interest rebate. Our members are the reason we have been successful, and it is nice to show them that active membership in our credit union is a good decision on their part.”

In 2018 Scott CU paid members a dividend of about $570,000, on the heels of a $500,000 return the year before and $1.5 million in 2016.

According to is most recent call report, Scott Credit Union posted more than $7.3 million in net income during the first three quarters of 2019, down nearly 25% from one year prior.
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Sandia Laboratory FCU

New Mexico-based Sandia Laboratory FCU kicked off November with a $20 million dividend to members, double what it returned to members just three years ago.

Members in good standing received payouts in their accounts last month, receiving up to four deposits based on loan interest for consumer, mortgage and business loans, as well as deposit account interest.

There was no minimum or maximum return, and business account holders also received payouts.

SLFCU defined “good standing” as any member who had not been denied services or been in arrears with the credit union.

The credit union posted $18.6 million in net income during the first three quarters of 2019, a 5% increase over the same period last year.
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Eastman CU

Eastman Credit Union has returned $14 million to members, bringing the $5 billion-asset institution’s total member payouts to more than $132 million since 1998.

“It is a privilege to announce that ECU’s volunteer board of directors voted to return a record breaking $14 million to members this year, bringing our total to over $132 million since the payout began in 1998,” said President and CEO Olan Jones.

Jones is set to retire on Jan. 1 and the dividend program was his brainchild in his first year as CEO.

Each member’s payout is based on interest earned on deposits and paid on loans throughout the year, with returns growing based on the depth of a member’s relationship with the institution.

ECU returned $12 million to members in 2016 and $13 million in both 2017 and 2018.

The Kingsport, Tenn.-based credit union reported $62.2 million in net income during the first three quarters of 2019, a 9.3% increase over the same period last year.
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Fort Bragg FCU

Fort Bragg FCU in Fayetteville, N.C. paid more than $721,000 in loyalty dividends to qualifying member-owners. This is the second consecutive year the credit union has returned a dividend based on deposit and loan balances, and roughly 60% of the credit union’s total membership received a payout. Nearly 23,000 members qualified, with some receiving upwards of $500.

“Our board of directors has once again authorized the payment of this special dividend to recognize our most loyal members,” President and CEO Todd Kenthack said in a press release. “As a financial cooperative, we are able to return a portion of our credit union’s earnings to our member-owners. This sets us apart from many for-profit financial institutions. December is the perfect time of the year to give back to our most loyal members.”

The credit union issued a dividend for the first time ever last year, putting more than $624,000 back in members’ pockets.

Fort Bragg FCU posted $2.875 million in net income during the first three quarters of 2019, according to NCUA call report data, a 32% increase over the same period last year.
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Charter Oak FCU

Charter Oak Federal Credit Union in Waterford, Conn. has returned $100 to individual members as part of its “Gold Rewards” program, which since 2010 has paid out more than $4 million in annual $100 bonuses.

To qualify, members must have a personal checking account, combined deposit and loan balance of $20,000 or more, and meet specific online bill pay usage requirements or maintain monthly direct deposit of at least $1,500.

Charter Oak posted $5.8 million in net income during the first three quarters of 2019, down from $7 million reported during the same period last year.

Other institutions issuing payouts

As reported, a variety of credit unions have also issued patronage dividends this year.

California's Golden 1 returned $20 million to members in a surprise payout, while the credit union service organization PSCU issued a nearly $26 million dividend to member-owners. At the opposite end of the spectrum, New York-based Western Division FCU returned $500,000 and Wisconsin's Summit CU gave back $2.4 million.