SCE Federal Credit Union, which largely serves Southern California residents, is among the ranks of credit unions going against big bank fees by offering free checking and debit card use. We recently caught up with CEO, Dennis Huber, who explained how SCE FCU is keeping fees low and customers happy with “people powered banking.”
To start, becoming a member of SCE FCU is easy and painless: you only need $15 to open an account. $5 secures your membership, while the remaining $10 is a tax-deductible donation to the SCE FCU Foundation, which aims to help underserved populations grow economically through access to financial education. The credit union matches your donation, and––voila––you’re a member! Although the credit union is based in Southern California, members have access to over 28,000 surcharge-free ATMs, as well as thousands of branches nationwide.
SCE FCU has a green checking account that earns 0.5% interest and has no fees as long as you sign up for eStatements and make a monthly direct deposit of at least $500. Also, for every new Green Checking account opened, SCE FCU plants a tree through American Forests. The credit union also offers a no-strings-attached, completely free checking account with no minimum balance requirements. Making debit card purchases is also free. In fact, if you sign for debit purchases instead of using your PIN, you can even earn rewards. You’ll earn at least 1 reward point for every $2 you spend. At 0.5%, this rate doesn’t compare well against credit cards, but you’ll be hard pressed to find many debit cards that offer rewards at all.
Of SCE FCU’s low banking fees, Huber states, “We are choosing not to assess a fee to members for using a debit card because they’re already going through tough times.” He also notes that this low fee structure goes along with SCE’s philosophy; the credit union strives to “keep access to essential services as fee free as possible.”
SCE FCU’s philosophy revolves around what they term “people powered banking.” While big banks charge their customers to please their shareholders, credit unions’ customers are their shareholders – they own the credit union. Because of this, all members have a say, and Huber stresses that the credit union is always ready to lend an ear to members’ concerns and ideas. Because credit union profits go back to the members, SCE FCU is able to consistently offer excellent rates, as well as low fee structures.
So while passage of the Durbin Amendment is pushing many banks to pass costs on to their customers, SCE FCU remains steadfast in its commitment to keeping fees low and giving each member a personalized banking experience.
Another option for fee-free debit cards
Free debit card use is sounding pretty good these days, isn’t it? If you’re on the hunt for a fee-free debit card, you should also take a look at the Perkstreet 2 Percent Debit Card. The card has no fees so long as you have at least one transaction per month, plus it earns you between 1% and 5% rewards.
You earn 2% rewards at select retailers online, including Walmart, Target and Amazon, up to $2,500 in purchases. If your account balance exceeds $5,000, you’ll also earn 2% back in store (up to $2,500, in addition to the online cap). In either case, you get an unlimited 1% back on all purchases where you don’t enter your PIN. On top of this, you’ll earn 5% rewards on up to $5,000 in yearly purchases in PowerPerks rotating categories.