California Credit Union Receives Distinguished Service Award
By Lindsay Frankel
A California-based credit union was given the “Air Force Distinguished Credit Union Award” for the fifth time in the last two decades. Each year, only one on-base credit union is chosen to receive the award, which is presented by the U.S. Department of the Air Force for efforts to provide access to services and increase financial literacy skills among Air Force members.
The judging criteria for the award included the following categories:
- Customer service and quality of facilities
- Financial literacy programs provided to residents of the base
- Financial products that help active service members avoid payday loans
- Involvement in the “Military Saves” program and other community programs
The credit union’s financial education efforts were particularly robust. “In 2018 alone, [the credit union] provided financial education classes to nearly 1,000 military members and conducted over 250 seminars to promote financial fitness,” Travis Air Force Base 60th Air Mobility Wing Commander Col. Jeffrey W. Nelson said. “Between these classes and supporting over 600 community and base events, the credit union encapsulates an unwavering commitment to serve Team Travis.”
In addition to offering training courses and weekly meetings for newcomers, the credit union participates in the Military Saves program by making a $25 contribution when a member opens a savings account. The credit union also offers low-interest lines of credit to help members pay off predatory payday loans.
A payday loan is a short-term loan that carries exorbitantly high annualized interest rates. The average APR on a payday loan in California, for example, is a whopping 411 percent. The short repayment period and high interest and fees associated with these loans make them difficult to pay back in the time allotted, and this costly method of borrowing often leads already financially-strapped individuals into a debt trap.
Payday lenders are known to target military members. There is a high concentration of payday loan storefronts around military bases, and payday lenders prey on servicemembers at double the rate at which they target civilians. Furthermore, deployment and inconsistencies in pay can make it difficult for servicemembers to make ends meet, That’s why low-cost credit options, like those offered through the credit union, are so important to the financial stability of members of the Air Force.
Members surveyed in the past year reported that the credit union’s quality of service was unparalleled by competitors. They noted an exceptionally friendly staff, a high level of accuracy, and fast approval for loans as reasons for the comparison.