Opening a Credit Union Account During a Pandemic

I moved away from my college town about a year ago, but I was still clinging on to my old credit union account because the thought of transferring my bills, direct deposit, and savings filled me with dread. I had not even considered transferring until I bought a used bike in person, where I had to withdraw $450 in cash.

With a $200 limit on the ATM, I fumbled through the ATM process three times to get enough in cash while a line formed behind me. It was just inconvenient enough to convince me to get a new account. I figured one year was enough; I should open a new account with a credit union where I can actually bank in person.

I picked one of the credit unions in my state that were on the top of the Forbes list, hoping for a good experience opening the account online or over the phone. After all, COVID-19 is still a pertinent piece of our lives. It went…. Interestingly.


The Initial Call

While I would have loved to check out what it would have been like to open an account online for this particular credit union, I needed to double check if I was still a member. I had been a member since I was born, when my mom opened a college savings account for me, and I stopped using it when I moved away when I turned 18.

I called, and turns out, I was no longer a member, but they still had all of my information. I asked if I could open an account just over the phone, and she told me yes. I confirmed my identity with my SSN, let her know my updated address, and we were off to the races.

  1. I docusigned a member agreement and the phone representative asked me to send a proof of address over email or “bring it into the branch later.” Wanting to avoid walking into the branch, I sent my driver’s license to her email. I found it a bit questionable to send a sensitive document through Gmail, but we moved on.
  2. The next step was to run a hard credit check to see if I qualified for a savings and checking account. I was a bit blindsided by this; no hard credit check was required when I opened my other credit union account in college. Additionally, she ran it before I could even ask questions or protest.

I qualified for both checking and savings, but after, I wondered if she even knew that I might have not known that this was a part of the process. I would have taken a second to consider if this was the right time to run it, since I just had a hard credit pull from a lease application. I hope I don’t need to apply for any loans soon.

  1. The next thing she asked me was whether I was interested in “Courtesy Pay,” which instead of declining a card with the potential for overdraft, it would in fact overdraft with a “fee of $25.” I was a bit annoyed that it is essentially the opposite of “overdraft protection.” I ended up opting out of Courtesy Pay, because I wanted overdraft protection.
  2. Lastly, the account needed to be funded with at least $10 to seal the deal. She asked me, “What time can you come into the branch?” I did not want to go into the branch. I told her, “is an ACH transfer possible? I am still concerned about COVID-19.” She replied with, “Don’t worry, the branches are open! We’re completely safe.”

I think I may have asked again for convenience, but it was quickly skimmed over to “what time can you come in?” I gave her a large ballpark of time, figuring it was not a big deal, and she asked me more specifically. I said tomorrow afternoon, and she said, “Great, I will send an email to the branch to let them know you’re coming.”


In the Branch

I’m still not sure why they needed to know what time I was coming, or why an ACH transfer wouldn’t have worked to fund the account. Maybe they needed to confirm my face looked like my ID. Maybe the phone operator didn’t have the means to set up a transfer. Either way, I had to withdraw $10 from the same ATM I withdrew the cash for the bike. It felt a bit silly.

I said hi to the door greeter, and walked up to the teller to deposit my cash. I gave her my ID and said my last digits of me SSN out loud. After that, I walked up to member services; they gave me my debit card, and a welcome packet. That was it!


Final Thoughts

I’m writing this blog anonymously because I didn’t come here to bash on a particular credit union. I think as a relatively young person, I expect new member processes to be completely remote, especially in the time of COVID. I was a bit disappointed to find out that I could not do that.

I want other credit unions to hear this: add completely remote services. I will always join a credit union, but not every other young person will join when they find out you actually have to walk into the branch.

Particularly in the time of COVID-19, online account opening is a critical service. Many of your members—current and prospective—may absolutely expect it!

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