In a Nutshell: Because they are member-owned, credit unions are known for hands-on service, competitive products, and a focus on financial literacy. When people in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have financial concerns, they can turn to Neighborhood Credit Union. Through its resources and proactive community outreach, Neighborhood CU helps its community improve its financial literacy and stability. It supplements its own efforts by offering members access to GreenPath Financial Wellness resources and tools. Going beyond education, Neighborhood CU also offers a variety of products — like Fresh Start Checking Accounts and Savings Builder Loans — to help members achieve financial success. For these efforts, we’re recognizing Neighborhood Credit Union with our Editor’s Choice™ Award for promoting smart financial practices.
In 2014, a Dallas police officer was in dire financial straits. He was retiring after 20 years on the force and coming out of bankruptcy.
He and his wife’s credit scores were in the mid-500s, and they had no savings to rely on. They needed to repair their credit and establish a nest egg — and so they turned to Neighborhood Credit Union.
The couple started with a Savings Builder Loan, which led to a second, and then multiple car loans, a credit card, and a personal loan. In less than four years, the couple’s credit score rose to over 700, and they’ve now owned two homes and successfully built their savings. All of this is thanks in no small part to the guidance and products available through Neighborhood CU.
The oldest credit union in Dallas, Neighborhood CU began as the Dallas Post Credit Union, which opened in 1930 — mere months after the stock market crash. The institution and its members survived the Great Depression, and, more than 70 years later, became community chartered in 2001. Neighborhood CU now operates 12 branches serving 49,000 members living, working, or worshipping in Dallas, Denton, and Ellis Counties, as well as the City of Arlington.
Neighborhood CU strives to help its community achieve the short and long-term financial goals they’ve set for themselves and their families.
“We want to make sure people are paying themselves first,” said Jessie Swendig, Vice President of Marketing at Neighborhood Credit Union.
It pursues this mission through proactive, educational outreach and a variety of products aimed at improving members’ financial wellbeing. For these efforts, we’re recognizing Neighborhood Credit Union with our Editor’s Choice™ Award for promoting smart financial practices through their educational resources and Automatic Savings Plan.
Serving Financial Education to the Dallas-Fort Worth Area
One way Neighborhood CU reaches its members and the community at large is through its blog, which puts an educational spin on topics like saving, budgeting, scams, and other financial concerns. But the credit union also directly engages populations in need of financial education.
One good example is its work with veterans. Neighborhood CU’s community relations team visits the local VA, where they conduct one-on-one financial education sessions. The group also offers larger presentations to improve veterans’ financial literacy.
Understanding the importance of fomenting good financial habits at a young age, Neighborhood CU provides financial education to children through school-based programs. In Duncanville, for example, students can bring their deposits to school. A branch manager will collect the money and provide lessons on saving and other finance-related topics.
Another way Neighborhood CU is helping young people learn to start saving early is its Looney Tunes Savings Club. Any child up to age 12 can open one of these accounts with a $25 initial deposit. The account holder receives awards and prizes for making deposits, which helps establish positive saving habits early in life. As of 2018, Neighborhood CU is working to redesign this program to turn it into more of an interactive approach with a greater emphasis on financial education and literacy.
Greenpath Helps Neighborhood CU Members Understand and Maintain Their Finances
Through its website, Neighborhood CU provides members with access to resources available through GreenPath Financial Wellness. Swendig told us the credit union chose GreenPath as the best offering for free and low-cost financial services and said it provides the best value on accurate financial advice and quality counseling.
Foremost among GreenPath’s resources is the free counseling it offers. Counselors help Neighborhood CU members understand their financial situation and goals, develop a budget, assess debt management options, recommend action for getting out of debt, and provide personalized action plans.
Additionally, GreenPath offers debt management and elimination plans, as well as housing services, like foreclosure prevention, homebuyer preparation assistance, and reverse mortgage counseling. Members can also receive student loan counseling, which includes loan reviews, repayment options, and customized payment plans.
GreenPath likewise offers enhanced student loan support, like in-depth analysis of repayment options, plans to bring delinquent loans current and rehabilitate defaulted loans, assistance completing applications for repayment programs, and advocacy with loan services.
GreenPath supplements Neighborhood CU’s financial education efforts with access to its newsletter, Pathways (which offers advice and features), and its Write on the Money blog (which addresses financial issues). Members can also take advantage of GreenPath University, which features articles, financial calculators, e-learning courses, educational videos, webinars, and educational games.
As an extra perk, GreenPath provides Neighborhood CU members with access to CheckRight.org. This is a self-paced, self-study program that covers information about checking accounts. It includes eight chapters covering topics, like the benefits of checking accounts and how to manage them, a glossary, and a final quiz.
Specialized Accounts and Loans Reward Responsibility
While these educational resources are comprehensive and important, financial institutions will ultimately be judged on their financial products. And Neighborhood CU checks off all the boxes here, as well, offering several programs, loans, and accounts designed to help members build savings, improve credit scores, and establish overall financial well-being.
One of these is the Automatic Savings Plan. Account holders can set up recurring transfers to their savings account. They are able to tailor to their own personal budget, helping them build savings while adhering to a budget.
Another is the Prize Savings Account. Neighborhood CU began offering this product in 2008 to encourage members to continue saving during the recession. This account requires a minimum $25 initial deposit and provides opportunities to win cash prizes.
Account holders receive a monthly entry for every $25 average daily balance in their accounts; using the automated recurring transfer also increases members’ chances of winning. Each month, one Neighborhood CU member wins $1,000; each quarter, one wins $10,000; and each year, one lucky winner receives $49,999. To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the offering, Neighborhood CU is giving away weekly prizes totaling $1,000.
Neighborhood CU also offers Kasasa checking accounts. These have the normal liquidity of a standard checking account but offer shopping credit or interest on the account balance. In the latter case, holders stand to earn interest similar to what a CD would accrue. These Kasasa accounts include ATM refunds for those who qualify; ATM users must still pay fees at the time of the transaction, but at the end of the month, Neighborhood CU repays those fees directly to the account holder. To qualify for these rewards, members must meet a few qualifications, such as swiping their debit cards 15 times a month and enrolling in E-Statements.
Neighborhood CU makes available a Fresh Start Checking Account to members who have experienced closures at other institutions. After maintaining satisfactory account status for six months and achieving a passing grade (16 out of 20) on the CheckRight.org quiz, account holders can transition into a Choice or Kasasa checking account.
Finally, Neighborhood CU has a Savings Builder Loan its members can apply for. When members take out one of these loans, Neighborhood CU deposits the money in a savings account. Once the loan is paid off, the account holder gains access to the funds. This allows members to simultaneously build savings and improve their credit scores.
Proactive Measures Keep Members Secure Online
With $600 million in assets and a strong digital presence, Neighborhood CU takes member security quite seriously.
“We can’t control when merchants have data breaches, so we like to make sure that we keep our members on top of all the things that are going on, and taking any precautions they can,” Swendig said.
To this end, Neighborhood CU provides members with up-to-date educational resources on scams, threats, and ways members can protect themselves.
“Our Choice Checking Account offers identity protection and online monitoring as part of the account,” Swendig said. “That’s part of our initiative to keep everyone safe online.”
This sort of comprehensive financial education — from savings to cyber security — helps people plan, safeguard, and achieve their financial dreams. Thanks to Neighborhood CU’s aid, members are able to lead healthier financial lives through better credit and improved savings, ensuring financial well-being for themselves and their families.