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Your Money, Your Community: Unveiling the Credit Union Difference

November 22, 2023

Several people with arms around each other and backs turned to the camera.

At Education First Federal Credit Union, we believe that banking should be more than just transactions; it should be a transformative journey that strengthens communities.

In a world dominated by impersonal financial institutions, credit unions are beacons of community-centric banking. Today, let's explore the unique attributes that set credit unions apart from traditional banks, and why choosing a credit union like Education First is a powerful choice for your financial well-being.

The Foundation of Credit Unions

The history of American credit unions dates back to the early nineteenth century, created by a community pulling together to ensure that those who lacked the ability to meet the stringent borrowing rules set by banks could access funds from the shared savings that developed from their pooled money. In that same spirit, credit unions today are member-owned financial cooperatives. This distinction is crucial because it means that every member is not just a customer; they are a shareholder. This cooperative structure fosters a sense of community and shared responsibility among members. When you bank with us, you're not just a number on a ledger; you're part of a collective effort to build a stronger financial future for everyone. At Education First, we started as a small group of educators and, over the last seventy-plus years, have since expanded to serve six counties in southeast Texas with a vast array of financial products and services, from youth savings accounts to commercial loans to grow your business.

Community-Centric Philosophy

Unlike traditional banks, whose primary focus is profit maximization for shareholders, credit unions prioritize the needs of their members. At Education First, our mission is to empower our members to achieve their financial goals. This means providing personalized services, competitive rates, and a genuine commitment to the financial well-being of our community.

Local Decision-Making

One of the most significant advantages of credit unions is their ability to make decisions locally. At Education First, our decisions are not dictated by a distant corporate office but are made by individuals who understand the unique needs of our community. Whether it's approving a loan or working with our members to help them secure income during retirement, we tailor our services to meet the specific requirements of our members.

Ownership and Democracy

When you become a member of Education First Federal Credit Union, you become an owner. This ownership carries with it the right to participate in the decision-making process. Credit unions operate on a democratic principle, where each member has an equal say in the direction of the institution. This ensures that the institution truly represents its community, fostering a sense of trust and accountability. Conversely, banks have a paid board of directors and private investors that engineer their products and policies on profitability.  

Focus on Financial Education

At Education First, we believe in empowering our members with knowledge. We go beyond mere transactions, offering financial education programs and resources to help our members make informed decisions. From free financial seminars and fraud prevention resources to literacy programs for kids, we are committed to enhancing the financial literacy of our community. We understand that a financially educated community is a resilient and prosperous one.

At Education First, our members have free access to Zogo, a gamified financial literacy app that rewards users with gift cards for completing bite-sized financial literacy lessons on the principles of smart saving, spending, and managing your money.

Click here to learn more about our partner in Financial Literacy, Zogo

We also offer a thorough financial literacy program specifically for kids. This program incentivizes deposits, rewarding our youth members when they make monthly deposits of $5 or more. The program also hosts online games and quarterly newsletters, and at the end of every school year, the C.A.F.E program holds an Achievement Awards Celebration where we award our youth members for their academic, community, and charitable achievements.

Personalized Service

One of the standout features of credit unions is their dedication to personalized service. Education First prides itself on knowing our members by name, not just account numbers. Our team is committed to understanding your unique financial situation and working with you to find solutions that fit your needs. Our support team is always ready to help you over the phone, online, or in person at any of our conveniently located branches. From first-time homebuyers to seasoned investors, we provide individualized guidance every step of the way.

Competitive Rates and Lower Fees

Credit unions are known for offering competitive rates on loans and deposits, often surpassing those of traditional banks. This is because our goal is not to maximize profits for external shareholders but to provide the best possible benefits to our members. Additionally, credit unions typically have lower fees and account costs, ensuring that more of your hard-earned money stays where it belongs—in your pocket.

Community Impact

Education First Federal Credit Union is not just a financial institution; we are an integral part of the communities we serve. Through initiatives like local scholarships, charitable donations, and volunteerism, we actively contribute to the well-being of our neighbors. When you bank with us, you become part of a larger movement, where your financial choices contribute to the growth and prosperity of your community. When members borrow from us, the credit union makes a donation to the school of their choice through our Paying it Forward Program. Our employee-funded Blue Jean Fridays Project provides local non-profits with grants to help them expand services that strengthen our communities.

Shared Values and Ethics

Credit unions, including Education First, are guided by a set of principles that prioritize ethics, integrity, and social responsibility. Our commitment to these values ensures our members can trust us to act in their best interests. We are not driven by the relentless pursuit of profit; instead, we focus on creating positive, sustainable impacts in the lives of our members and the community at large.

Accessibility and Inclusivity

Education First Federal Credit Union is dedicated to providing accessible financial services to all members of our community. Our commitment to inclusivity means we strive to serve individuals from all walks of life, regardless of their financial background. We understand the importance of financial inclusion and work tirelessly to break down barriers and make quality banking services available to everyone. We aim to offer programs tailored to every circumstance that's why we offer products like SmartScore to help our members get their credit score back on track or our First-Time Auto Buyers which helps members build their credit while financing a car.

The Future of Banking is Community-Centric

As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of personal finance, one thing remains clear: the future of banking is growing. Credit union membership in the U.S. alone has reached 135.3 million in 2022. Education First Federal Credit Union stands as a testament to the power of financial cooperatives in fostering thriving communities. When you choose us, you're not just choosing a financial institution; you're choosing a partner in your journey toward financial success.

In a world where banking can sometimes feel like an impersonal transaction, Education First Federal Credit Union offers a refreshing alternative—a community-centric approach that puts you, the member, at the center of everything we do. From personalized service and competitive rates to a commitment to financial education and community impact, we are more than just a credit union; we are a catalyst for positive change. Join us on this transformative journey towards a brighter, more financially empowered future.