The military build-up in preparation for a potential war with Iraq has credit unions serving military personnel gearing up as well.
Military credit unions such as Navy FCU and Pentagon FCU have always been set up to help members of the armed forces when they are being deployed, whether a war has been declared or not, but as a major deployment looms they are boning up on everything from the Soldiers and Sailors Credit Relief Act (SSCRA) to ensuring that members have access to their accounts from almost anywhere in the world.
"Navy Federal is always prepared to help members when they are deployed, whether that deployment was anticipated or last-minute," said NFCU spokesperson Lauren Moeller. "We have a checklist of what to do when you're deployed on our website."
The same goes for Pentagon FCU, Alexandria, Va., which has sent an e-mail to members on active duty that included a similar financial planning checklist. as well as words of praise and thanks. "To Pentagon Federal Credit Union's Members engaged in our nation's defense, Pentagon Federal Credit Union wants you to know that you are respected and esteemed for the job that you do," the e-mail reads. "As you serve the country, we will be at your service to help secure your personal financial needs as you secure our freedom."
Both credit unions reported they are ensuring their employees are trained and ready to take questions on SSCRA, and they stand ready to go the extra mile for members whose lives are being turned upside down.
"There's a heightened awareness among all our staff, particularly those at branches located on a base," Moeller suggested. "There's an extra willingness to help out."
Mary Lynn Stevens, VP-external relations for Pentagon FCU agreed. "We have a system where a soldier can pick up a phone on any base, even overseas, and call us toll-free, and no matter what time of day or night it is, they always reach an actual person," she explained. "There's always somebody there for them to talk to."
Moreover, all of PFCU's accounts can be accessed online. In fact, a soldier can even join the credit union online. With 89% of the credit unions' transactions conducted remotely, it's no surprise that members of Pentagon FCU have such all-encompassing access via the Internet.
Similarly, members of Navy FCU can access their accounts online, even while shipboard, Moeller added.
Package Of Benefits
In Colorado Springs, Colo., Ent FCU, which continues to serve members of the military after having converted to a community charter, announced an initiative to "upgrade" benefits for deployed military personnel who are members of the $1.4-billion CU.
As part of the upgrade, affected military members have use of any ATM worldwide without paying any fee to Ent Federal, free Ent@ccess Online Banking with free Online Bill Pay, no monthly account or check-writing fees, dividends paid on checking accounts, official checks and money orders at no charge, a discount on new consumer loans, plus a bonus on published rate share certificates, among other benefits.
Ent Federal officials also recommend that military members contact the credit union or other creditors to set up automatic payment of loans to avoid late fees, and ask about a one- or two-month deferred payment schedule for loans to help with the deployment transition.
"We need to help reduce the impact as much as possible for our deployed military members and their families," said James Moore, vice president of corporate development at Ent Federal and a retired Colonel, United States Air Force. "We're making the upgrade very easy, and these members can realize significant conveniences and savings."