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Spotlight on Credit Unions: Best Online Financial Literacy Programs

by on June 21, 2012

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It’s difficult to manage your money if you don’t know what you’re doing. Some of us are lucky enough to get a good financial education from our family or schoolteachers, while others are forced to figure everything out on their own. Regardless of what you already know about money, there’s always more to learn, and there’s no time like the present. Your local credit union is an excellent resource for financial literacy materials. That might sounds surprising, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Here’s why: credit unions are not-for-profit financial institutions. They offer all the same products and services as banks, but they’re not owned by corporate shareholders. All credit union members are co-owners, so your local branch is eager to help you make smart financial decisions. Of course, financial literacy training isn’t just good for the health of a credit union. It’s important for the health of your community, and frankly, it’s a nice thing to do.

Financial literacy enters the digital age

As credit unions get more tech-savvy, their resources become easier to access. Many credit unions have financial literacy training materials available on their websites for you to access from the convenience of your home. Programs vary by institution, but you’ll often find great information about borrowing, managing your money, and even money lessons for your kids. Keep reading to see NerdWallet’s picks for credit union financial literacy websites. Even if you don’t live near the credit union headquarters (listed in parentheses), you can still look online and learn great strategies for managing your money. And hey, if you are local, stop in for a visit the next time you need a loan or new checking account. You’ll find that credit unions often have better deals than the big banks. After all, they’re trying to look out for their most important shareholder: you!

Most Goal-Oriented: Financial Center Federal Credit Union (Indianapolis, IN)

Financial Center Federal Credit Union has 8 branches throughout Indianapolis. Under their website’s Plan & Learn tab, you’ll find awesome articles organized by goals and actions, such as saving, investing, spending and planning. Alternatively, you can visit their Life Stages section, which organizes articles by big life events: being a student, getting married, having a baby, changing jobs, and entering retirement. The site also has financial calculators and links to additional resources from the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). Membership is open to people who live, work, worship, attend school or volunteer in Boone, Brown, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Johnson, Marion, Morgan, Putnam, and Shelby counties, as well as the greater Indianapolis area.

Best Tip Collection: AmeriChoice Federal Credit Union (Mechanicsburg, PA)

AmeriChoice Federal Credit Union has 8 branches in Mechanicsburg, Enola, Camp Hill and York. Their Financial Literacy page includes a comprehensive list of tips, and links to resources from the CUNA Personal Finance Initiative and the Pennsylvania Office of Financial Education. If you live in the area and have kids, be sure to take advantage of their financial literacy workshops for every age bracket (elementary school to college) and student-run credit union branches at local schools throughout South Central Pennsylvania. Membership is open to people who live, work, worship, or attend school in Cumberland, Dauphin or Perry County, and people who volunteer in York County. Family of eligible members may also join.

Best of the Basics: Metro Credit Union (Boston, MA)

Metro Credit Union has 13 branches in Boston, Burlington, Chelsea, Framingham, Lawrence, Lynn, Melrose, Peabody, Salem and Tewksbury. Their Financial Education section is easy to navigate and great if you’re looking for basic information. It includes short-but-thorough articles on budgeting, saving and borrowing, plus appropriate product recommendations for every life stage, from college to retirement. Metro’s site also has 6 different financial calculators, including one just for kids. Membership is open to anyone who lives, works or owns a business in Essex, Middlesex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Plymouth, Barnstable or Worcester counties. You may also qualify for membership based on where you work; Metro is the official credit union of over 1,800 companies in Massachusetts.

Best Student Resources: UW Credit Union (Madison, WI)

UW Credit Union has 20 branches serving the Madison, Milwaukee, Whitewater, Green Bay, Oshkosh and Stevens Point areas. They also have campus branches at UW Madison, UW Milwaukee, UW Green Bay, UW Oshkosh, UW Whitewater, UW Stevens Point and Madison College. With such a large student population, perhaps it comes as no surprise that they have a great financial literacy library for the college crowd. In their Education section, you’ll find credit building tips, a budgeting worksheet, loan payment and consolidation calculators, and 36+ articles on college life and finance. You can join if you live, work or attend school within 5 miles of a branch, or if you’re an employee or student of the UW system. There are also other ways to qualify: please see their membership eligibility page for complete details.

Best Financial Security Info: Kauai Community Credit Union (Lihue, HI)

Kauai Community Federal Credit Union has 5 branches in Kukui Grove, Lihue, Waimea, Eleele and Kapaa. We love their Financial Security page. It’s full of articles that explain everything you need to know about identity theft, phishing, skimming, fraud, and strategies for protecting your personal information. They also offer free financial literacy seminars for students and adults. If you’re a teacher, ask them to put together a presentation for your classroom! Membership is open to any person that lives, works, worships, attends school or operates a business on the islands of Kauai and Niihau, as well as area organizations. Family of eligible members also qualify for membership.

Best Multimedia Collection: BrightStar Credit Union (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

BrightStar Credit Union has 7 locations in Fort Lauderdale, Davie, Hollywood and surrounding cities. Their financial literacy resource section is called BrightStar University, and it offers a great presentation of games, articles, calculators, budgeting programs and more, all organized by age group: elementary school, middle school, high school, college and adults. It even includes a section in Spanish, and well as resources for parents and teachers. Membership is open to anyone who lives, works or goes to school in Broward or Palm Beach counties in Florida, as well as local organizations. Anyone associated with an education institution in Broward County, employees of partner organizations, and family of eligible members may also join.

Most Comprehensive Calculators: DuTrac Community Credit Union (Dubuque, IA)

DuTrac Community Credit Union has 11 locations in Dubuque, Davenport, Dyersville, Eldridge, Maquoketa and Monticello. Their Resources database includes articles about budgeting, bill paying, avoiding fees at banks, building credit and more. However, we’re especially impressed with their financial calculators, all 20 of them! Whether you’re comparing products or calculating payments, you’ll find the perfect calculator for your auto loan, mortgage, savings account or home budget. DuTrac’s financial literacy page also includes links to help you view your credit report, prep your taxes, and buy a used automobile. Membership is open to residents in 14 counties in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. Family of eligible members and local businesses may also join. Please see their membership page for complete details.

Most Multifaceted Program: Bay Federal Credit Union (Capitola, CA)

Bay Federal Credit Union has 7 locations throughout the Monterey Bay Area. Many credit unions partner with financial literacy organizations, but Bay Federal Credit Union went a step beyond to create their own multifaceted program that supports the entire community: children, students and adults. The GrowSmart program includes a collection of classroom materials for K-12 students, adults and teachers. You’ll also find a variety of free online courses and podcasts on their website. Membership is open to people who live, work, volunteer, worship or attend school in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties. Family of eligible members may also join.

Best Success Story: Georgetown University Alumni & Student Federal Credit Union (GUASFCU) (Washington, D.C.)

Common Sense began as a free financial literacy seminar for Georgetown students. Just a few years later, it’s now a series of workshops and an impressive educational website with video clips from previous lectures, a complete calendar, interactive games, and links to important websites. GUASFCU has a very strong presence on the Georgetown University campus. Approximately 70% of incoming freshmen open an account there. Membership is open to current and former Georgetown University students. They have one branch located in the Leavey Center.

Most Creative Partnership: OnPoint Community Credit Union (Portland, OR)

OnPoint Community Credit Union has 21 branches in and around Portland, Bend and Eugene. To better reach their community, they created a series of financial literacy television segments, called OnPoint Money Matters, in partnership with a local TV station, KGW News Channel 8. Watch the videos on their website to learn more about home loans, your credit score, and credit cards in an easy-to-digest format with clear explanations. In partnership with the Credit Union National Association, OnPoint also provide links to financial planning articles and an impression selection of financial calculators. Membership is open to anyone who lives or works in Benton, Clackamas, Columbia, Crook, Deschutes, Jefferson, Lane, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Washington and Yamhill counties in Oregon, and Clark and Skamania counties in Washington. Family of eligible members may also join.

Best Anti-Scam Campaign: Highmark Federal Credit Union (Rapid City, SD)

Highmark Federal Credit Union has 3 branches in Rapid City and Custer. Their Financial Education page contains a collection of excellent articles on common financial scams involving money wires, credit and debit cards, fake checks and identity theft. We especially encourage you to check out their article on payday loans. It includes a chart with sample loan amounts to help you understand just how much you’ll really have to pay if you can’t make the payment deadline. Learn how a $300 payday loan can end up costing you $1860! Membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Pennington, Meade, Lawrence, and Custer counties.

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