City Survey: Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill

the thriving Research Triangle of North Carolina has amazing Better Banking Options


In the past two decades or so, the Research Triangle of North Carolina has experience tremendous growth and great press. The three university towns have been named by many publications in recent years as some of the best cities in the country to live in because of their high quality of life and thriving local economies.


Usually on this site, we focus our attention on Better Banking Options in areas without great opportunity, who are using their limited resources to bring more capital into their communities. Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill are on the other end of the spectrum as far as economic opportunity goes, but we still want to celebrate the banks and credit unions using their considerable resources both locally and effectively. We also want to make sure anyone considering a move to the area has an idea of where they could be banking to impact their new community.


Regardless of whether you’re a newcomer to the area, or someone that’s lived there for years that’s just looking to move their money to a Better Banking Option, we’ve listed below a handful of banks and credit unions in the area which are doing great work through wealth-building loans.



- Self-Help Credit Union is one of the first Better Banking Options we ever featured on this blog, and the second option that comes up when you look up Raleigh, Durham or Chapel Hill in our search engine. Founded in 1980, Self-Help Credit Union began by helping cooperatives of farm workers procure local mills as they were shut down, individuals who had been turned down for loans in conventional financing. Self-Help has continued to grow substantially over the past twenty years through mergers with like-minded institutions which may not have enough capital to continue on their own. Today, Self-Help serves African-American communities in eastern and central North Carolina after a merger with 10 locally focused institutions across the state. They’re a designated CDFI, as well as being designated an LICU and an MCU. We highly recommend them to those in the Research Triangle, as they have a strong history of helping underbanked populations in North Carolina’s most unprivileged communities, along with mobile and online banking options. They have two locations in Durham and one in Raleigh.


- Latino Community Credit Union’s first branch was formed in 2000 with contributions from Self-Help and a couple of Hispanic organizations in the state to provide banking to Latinx individuals who had previously been underbanked or unbanked. After growing rapidly since their inception, opening 12 new branches across North Carolina, they’ve made a huge impact on the Latinx communities they work in, with 65% of their members being previously unbanked. Their home loans have enabled 3,600 families and individuals to buy their first homes. They’re also a national leader with 2,400 DACA loans, and according to the impact page on their website, 80% of their borrowers are low-income. Latino Community CU has earned the CDFI designation, as well as being an LICU and an MCU. We would recommend them to anyone looking to support underbanked, Latinx populations in North Carolina.


- First Carolina People’s Credit Union is the first Better Banking Option that pops up when you look up the Triangle in our search engine. They were originally chartered in Goldsboro in 1952 as the Goldsboro Postal Credit Union, but slowly grew by merging with other local Postal credit unions, until opening eligibility to anyone living and working in Wayne County and changing their name in 2011. They’re a designated LICU, and do a significant amount of quality lending for a credit union, which is why they score so well in our metric. Although First Carolina People’s CU doesn’t currently have a branch in Cary, because the mall they were located in was recently shut down, they plan to open another, and have extended their eligibility to both Wake and Johnston County. Keep an eye out for their new location to open an account with them!


- Benchmark Community Bank is local-minded lending institution with 13 locations across small towns in southern Virginia and northern North Carolina. Benchmark Community Bank first opened Kenbridge, VA, in a doublewide mobile home in 1971, moving to their current HQ building three years later. After changing their name from Lunenburg County Bank in 1989, they steadily expanded to open branches in other smaller towns, but remain locally owned and operated. Benchmark Community Bank does an extraordinary amount of housing lending--about 55% of their lending portfolio--with 84% of this devoted to housing for low- and moderate-income (LMI) neighborhoods. Benchmark community banks has two locations in Wake Forest and Youngsville, small towns outside of Raleigh.


- First Federal Bank was formed in Dunn, NC in 1958 to provide mortgages in Hartnett County, but became a full-fledged community bank in 2003. At heart, they’re still a small-town bank which will put your deposits towards quality lending in close-knit communities in North Carolina. They devote 57% of their loan portfolio to housing, and 60% of that goes to LMI neighborhoods. Additionally, 15% of their assets go to small business lending. Their particular branch near the Research Triangle is actually located in Fuquay-Varina, NC, which is a small town outside of Raleigh. However, they do offer online and mobile banking options and have open eligibility, so anyone looking for their deposits to make a difference in small towns can move their money to this Better Banking Option.


You would hope with the amount of capital in the Research Triangle right now that the lending institutions in the area would be using that to enrich people’s lives. These are the Better Banking Options in the area which do the best job of this, and divert some of the capital specifically to those who need it the most. We’d encourage everyone in Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill to move their deposits to one of these banks or credit unions today!