SECU Eliminating Many Fees; Members Can Donate Check Fees To Foundation

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State Employees CU is well known for having very few fees, but the credit union recently went on a quest to eradicate as many fees as it could afford.

"We don't have a whole lot of fees around here, and the ones we have are very low," said Leigh Brady, SVP-education services at SECU. "As our operations have gotten more efficient, the board wanted to see what fees we could lower or get rid of altogether. Essentially, the only fees we are keeping are the ones designed to prevent abuse, like the check-writing fee. If you write more than 50 checks a month, there's a fee."

Among the fees that were killed off: travelers check fees, debit card reissuing fees and fees for making copies of statements and checks.

"We see the travelers check as a relationship builder, so it made sense to get rid of that fee," Brady noted. "Copy fees were eliminated for all reasonable requests, and of course, free copies have been available through the secured Member Access section of our website."

Eliminating the fee when the CU has to reissue debit cards is another relationship-building tactic, she added. "The debit card is something we'd like every member to have, so why should we make them pay for it?"

Same goes for overdraft protection, which the credit union offers at no charge.

One of the credit union's remaining fees is being put to good use.

"We have a fee that covers the operating expense of our checking accounts. It's been $1 since the 80s, and we've never raised it," Brady recalled. "For the next 18 months, members can choose to donate that $1 fee each month to our new foundation instead of having it go towards expenses. Either way, they still have to pay the fee, so it may as well go to a good cause, though we have had a few people ask that it not be contributed to the foundation."

The SECU Foundation is something that's been in the works at the credit union for about a year and a half, but this is the first big push to get it funded. "We figured $12 a year for a member to donate-and it's money they were going to pay anyway-isn't much, but if enough members participate, we'll reach our goal of having a half-million dollars for the foundation."

The new foundation could have a variety of community development uses, but the first project on the docket is to create one scholarship for every single community college in the state, Brady said, noting that employees of all of the community colleges are part of SECU's field of membership as employees of the state.

SECU has advisory boards in most of its 173 branches, and those boards will be invited to submit project proposals for the foundation board to consider in the future.

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