In a Nutshell: As its name implies, Extra Credit Union is dedicated to providing great financial services in addition to offering educational resources. The credit union is based in Michigan and anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in the state can be a member. Extra Credit Union also partners with several organizations to offer financial wellness services to credit union members and people in the community for free. The credit union leverages its educational services to help members access and qualify for loan products.
Extra Credit Union’s commitment to education starts with its founders. The credit union was started in an unused high school classroom by educators in 1954. With only $856 in total assets, the credit union decided early to make financial literacy a focal point of its services.
Now with nearly 20,000 members and $322 million in assets, Extra Credit Union focuses its efforts on providing the best financial products and educational resources to help members build better futures.
Extra Credit Union was built with that education in mind. It puts its members first with every new program. The credit union is owned by its members and doesn’t answer to shareholders. All revenue goes directly to providing members with better services and lower loan interest rates.
While it was built with education in mind, people who want to join the credit union do not have to work in education. Extra Credit Union is open to people who reside, work, worship, or attend schools within Michigan.
Extra Credit Union partners with several organizations to provide online and in-person financial learning opportunities. These opportunities are open to everyone in Michigan whether they are a member or not. Making sure everyone has access to educational resources is critical to Extra Credit Union’s mission.
“We want to make sure people are as educated as possible because it’s their money,” Extra Credit Union Assistant Vice President of Marketing Ruthann Varosi said. “If you don’t have enough money to carry you through to the end of your life, then what you’re really giving up is control. Financial literacy brings control over the destiny of your finances.”
Credit is Not a Determining Factor for Many Products
Extra Credit Union doesn’t do lending the way most traditional banking institutions do. The credit union works with members to get them loans that they wouldn’t get anywhere else.
“We listen to the story,” Varosi said. “It’s not about your credit score, it’s about the things that have happened to you, the things that you have fought through, the things that you have survived, and how we can move you forward from there.”
Members who need a car but don’t qualify for auto loans can apply for Extra Credit Union’s special auto program. Members will receive the loan for the car, and the credit union will place a GPS tracker on the vehicle to protect it.
The credit union also offers what it calls a Clean Slate checking account for people who have bad credit scores and wouldn’t normally qualify for a checking account. The account provides a way to pay bills and rebuild credit.
Extra Credit Union’s Debt Crusher program gives a new meaning to debt consolidation. Debt Crusher helps members manage their debt as they complete lessons on how to budget.
The credit union will help members who finish the lessons eliminate debt and create good saving habits. Extra Credit Union wants members to understand how they ended up in financial straits and come up with ways to avoid mistakes in the future.
“We’re in it for the long haul, not just for the five to seven years it takes to pay off that particular loan,” Varosi said. “That, for us, is the piece that makes it such a unique product.”
Partnerships Bring Financial Literacy to the Community
Extra Credit Union still has ties to the educational system. Two members of its marketing team are dedicated staff members in the school system. Those members help the marketing team better focus its financial literacy efforts and create better programs.
The programs teach students from kindergarten all the way through high school. Extra Credit Union will go into local schools, hold reading presentations, and give away more than 1,000 books. Speaking with children early about the importance of managing money helps create good habits early on. And when they revisit the lessons in later school years, they are already familiar with the concepts.
Extra Credit Union created its financial literacy programs with Banzai!. The company works with credit unions around the country to build lessons geared toward teaching school students how to save money. As part of an expanded partnership with Banzai!, the company will sponsor a local school and provide it with all of its learning materials for free.
“Our dedicated personnel can go in and do presentations on that type of thing,” Varosi said. “They really make the curriculum come alive for students. The program brings a pretest and a post-test so students see the difference they’re making right away.”
Extra Credit Union also partners with GreenPath to provide financial education to members of all ages. Those lessons are provided in webinar form and are accessed online.
“We’re building this library of knowledge for our members,” Varosi said. “When they want to come in and visit the website, they can find the lessons easily.”
Committed to Digital and In-Person Member Services
Extra Credit Union provides all of the services members need whether they access those services from their phone, computer, or inside a branch. Members can rest easy knowing that they will be serviced whether they live close to a branch or not.
Inside its branches, members will find staff eager to help with any problems that come up. Extra Credit Union employs dedicated personal finance experts who work with individual members on anything they need help with. This includes helping plan for retirement and readjusting financial goals as time goes on.
Staff members also reach out to members who are struggling. The credit union receives its money from the services members use. When a member runs the risk of defaulting on debt, it means that money does not come back to help fellow members. The staff will send those who need help links to get them set up and working toward a better financial future.
The credit union told us it invested a large amount of money into its digital offerings years ago to stay ahead of the competition. That commitment to digital is continuing to this day. Extra Credit Union is rolling out its mobile unit to events to test out its digital branching capabilities.
“Anywhere that we’re going for events, we’re going to be looking at educating people on digital branches,” Varosi said. “We don’t want members to have to walk into a building to get exactly the services they need and want for their future.”