A Community Development Credit Union working in Vermont to strengthen all parts of their economies and communities
It’s been a while since we featured a credit union in our bank profiles, primarily because credit unions aren’t required to publish the same data that banks are. Right now, we’re unable to tell how many loans credit unions are devoting to housing, or if they prioritize opening branches in low-and-moderate-income neighborhoods. We hope to be able to get this data from a reliable source in the future, but for the time being, credit unions are simply less transparent.
For this reason, we would love for our reader to share their experiences, or their loved one’s experiences, with exceptional credit unions. If you have had an impactful loan from a credit union, or even just great service, reach out to us and tell us a little bit about why you think your credit union should be considered a Better Banking Option.
Currently, we recommend credit unions which have expressed a commitment to deeply investing in the communities they work in and those which have earned designations for working with low-and-moderate-income communities--CDCU (community development credit union) and LICU (low-income credit union), and you can read more about them here.
Opportunities Credit Union in Vermont is the only CDCU in the state and, on their website, they say they “service the financial needs of people of modest income and assets,” and seem to focus on providing products that improve the lives of everyone participating in the economies they work in.
Vermont is a historically rich state with a small population; Burlington, one of two cities Opportunities is located in, is the most populous city in the state, but with only 50,000 people, is the smallest city in the U.S. to be the largest in its state. One thing we like in particular about this Better Banking Option is that only individuals living in low-income neighborhoods in Burlington are even eligible for membership, although it is possible to invest in Opportunities Credit Union without being a member as a Non-Member Depositor. The president of Opportunities is a woman, which we love to see, and is more uncommon than you might think.
On their website, they devote a whole section to sharing borrowers’ stories and the positive impacts the credit union makes in the community. One stand-out story introduces a couple who opened a popular day-camp program called Mud City Adventures to provide activities for kids during the long summer months.
Although only 8% of Opportunities CU’s lending is designated to small businesses--which is unexpected considering the numerous stories they publish on their website are primarily about the impact of their small business loans--they also have a range of loan products that many banking institutions wouldn’t bother with. For example, they offer an “independence loan” for those who may need assistive technology to function, such as a motorized wheelchair. For a family or personal emergency that requires money you don’t have, Opportunities CU has a loan product for this as well. Small loans like this can be particularly hard to get from any lending institution other than payday loan offices, which charge exponentially higher interest rates and are highly exploitive.
Through Opportunities CU’s Non-Member Depositor program, anyone can look into investing in this Better Banking Option, even if they fall outside of membership eligibility, and they offer both online and mobile banking. Check out their website today.