Sunday, January 11, 2009

Singing the praises of Credit Unions

I'm going to make a rare post where I talk about something in a positive light. That something is Peoples Alliance Federal Credit Union, my bank.

I joined shortly after taking a job in Hauppauge, NY in December 2002.  The credit union was walking distance from my office, which was good since I didn't have a car.

My initial impressions were pretty positive. The first part was the lack of any kind of withdrawal or deposit forms. Instead, you had a membership card, and told the teller what you wanted to do. You would get a printed reciept, that you had to sign if you were making a withdrawal. This sped things up to the point that it was quicker to talk to a real teller than an ATM assuming both had no lines. There also happens to be a branch in JFK, which I can access via a short walk from my house to the air train. Finally, they handle ATM deposits prmptly.

It did have its downfalls. First of all, they charge fees for using other ATMs. This is made doubly annoying by the fact that they are not a large bank with many branches. That being said, I've had accounts at large banks, and 90% of my ATM withdrawals were from bodega ATMs then. Basically, I don't plan in advance for my petty cash needs.

They also opened a branch in Ronkokoma. This is near my current job so it convient.

I've always felt a large faceless multination bank would better serve my needs, but never bothered to make the change. That being said I am aware of the benifits of small, more personal banks. I just never need one until late December.

I had just gotten my bonus checks and was going to pay off my car loan. I made a deposit and scheduled a payment for the 27th, which would have given the checks 4 business days to clear. Since they were payroll checks I expected them to clear in 2 days.

A few days later I noticed a $25 dollar fee and that the check had not cleared. I decide to call them up and see if this matter could be rectified in a small bank manner. It turns out that a 10 day hold was placed on the check. I asked why so long for a payroll check, I was told to call the branch I deposited the check at so they could verify it was a payroll check. They apparently still had the physical check at the local branch. I would have expected the physical checks to be archived at the central branch same day. 

I called that branch and explained my situation. I asked for the hold to be removed, and the $25 dollar refunded. She said she would find the check and call me back. When she called me back the funds were already released. She said since I get direct deposit, they assume any checks are not payroll checks, but i could write a note on the ATM deposit envelope next time asking for a shortened hold date. I will do this next December when I get my bonus check.

If this happened at a larger bank I don't know if I could get it rectified same day. I also don't know if they would be place a shorter hold on the check by default. All I know is that I was able to resolve this issue with two phone calls and one outgoing call.