In a Nutshell: Founded in 1929, California Coast Credit Union is the oldest credit union in San Diego. A 2008 merger with First Future Credit Union helped the nonprofit institution increase its resources and offerings, and members can now visit their choice of 24 branches and more than 60 extra CO-OP shared branch locations. Cal Coast offers the competitive interest rates and benefits often associated with credit unions, while also focusing on developing cutting-edge financial technology often reserved for big banks.
Whether you’re building your personal nest egg or rebuilding your finances, every penny you save can lead to a brighter future. No matter what your goals are, you’ll need somewhere safe and secure to store your money. For most Americans, the decision comes down to either a large bank or a local credit union, but which is right for you?
The answer depends on your needs and long-term goals. Since banks are for-profit organizations, their decisions prioritize growing profits for shareholders and expanding the brand. Now, that’s not always a bad thing — those extra branches increase accessibility and higher profit margins often mean banks are ahead of the curve in technological innovation.
Where banks tend to fall behind credit unions are in the areas of personalized service and interest rates. As not-for-profit organizations, credit unions put members first, giving them the best rates they can afford. Since they typically service one community or geographical area, they’re embedded in the population and often work with local charities to enhance the living situations of their members and other area citizens.
Founded in 1929, California Coast Credit Union strikes a balance between big bank and traditional credit union. The longest-running credit union in San Diego, Cal Coast maintains its competitive interest rates and a commitment to its community, all the while developing technology that competes with much larger financial institutions.
Through a 2008 merger with First Future Credit Union, Cal Coast has grown to 24 branches and more than 60 additional CO-OP shared branch locations. Cal Coast offers all of the traditional accounts — checking, savings, and business — as well as loans, credit cards, and investment accounts. Interest rates are competitive and current rates are updated in real time on the homepage of the Cal Coast website.
Another benefit enjoyed by Cal Coast members that most financial institutions lack — be it bank or credit union — is the robust rewards program. Every member is automatically enrolled in the program and immediately starts earning monthly points for account activity.
Points can be earned through any type of transaction within any account, such as making a deposit to your savings account. Rewards can be used monthly or collected over time, and can be redeemed for perks like waived account or printed check fees, an increase in CD rates, or forgiveness of a non-sufficient funds (NSF) fee. (The latter is more common than most would think, as Americans paid more than $15 billion in overdraft or bounced-check fees in 2016.)
Reach Your Financial Goals with Coast Money Manager™
Available to all members through desktop and mobile devices, the Coast Money Manager is a helpful budgeting tool that allows you to view all of your financial accounts — from Cal Coast and more than 10,000 other financial institutions — in one place, while breaking down itemized lists of expenses for different categories. Over time, it even does a lot of the financial work for you.
“We partnered with a FinTech company up in Northern California for the Money Manager,” Cal Coast CEO Todd Lane told a local news station. “This particular tool has a gamified look for budgeting, for setting goals. … The bubbles represent how much you’ve spent in a certain category, like household items or clothing. What the tool does is recognize your spending habits and develop a budget for you. You don’t even have to put in a budget. It does it for you.”
The tool is particularly handy for consumers on tight budgets, as it provides a visual layout to show you where you’ve been spending the most and where you can cut back. The mobile accessibility is a strength because it’s a tool members can use to guide financial decisions from wherever they are.
“Most consumers are doing their financial transactions on their phones. No longer are they going into the branches,” Todd said.
Todd added that Cal Coast has around 1 million logins to its banking system each month through mobile devices. It’s with this in mind that tools like the Coast Money Manager were created. With Cal Coast’s online presence on par with many larger banks, the Coast Money Manager is just one facet of the tools available to members looking to gain an edge on their finances.
Free Calculators and Financial Advice for Every Stage of Life
Many financial institutions offer basic online tools, like calculators, to help guide customers through the process of shopping for large purchases or taking out loans. These tools have been around for many years but have increased in both number and usefulness over time.
“Personal financial management tools, or PFMs, have been out there for a long time. Most every financial institution has PFMs as part of its mobile banking or online banking,” Todd said. “But the new take on them is to make them simpler and to make it look different. These tools are much more helpful than they used to be in the past.”
Cal Coast’s core offerings include a selection of calculators to manage everything from purchases and paycheck savings to tax planning and retirement. Business tools are included to help SMB owners create more in-depth plans, with audit tracking available along the way.
Those with a current mortgage (from any institution) can use the refinancing tool to determine whether to refinance their loan, and itemized timetables can be used to observe the benefits of making biweekly payments instead of monthly mortgage payments.
The institution also offers a series of financial planning tools and informative articles categorized by life stages, designed to help readers navigate important financial milestones. Resources include planners and calculators for family life, work life, student life, young adult life, and retired life.
The Cal Coast Cares Foundation’s Involvement in San Diego
Credit unions tend to appeal to potential customers with the community service work they do in the areas they serve. With operations and branches confined to one specific region, credit unions have the upper hand in getting to know customers and their communities’ needs.
The Cal Coast Cares Foundation has a host of local charities it supports through funding and initiatives, helping Cal Coast stay true to its roots in education. This includes annual donations of more than $50,000 in scholarship money to area high school and college students, as well as educator grants, which provide money to classroom teachers to provide materials for students of all ages.
The credit union’s commitment to education continues in each branch office, where employees work closely with members to advance their goal of increased financial literacy in the community.
“Our membership is getting younger and younger all the time,” Todd said. “What we’re doing with them is youth financial education. It’s so important, and it’s stuff that’s not taught in school. I learned it from my parents and from making mistakes. We’re trying to get ahead of that. Many of the incoming high school students in the San Diego area go through our program, Bite of Reality. We’re also doing it with the community colleges. It’s been a great thing.”