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Loan rates are probably lower. Perhaps the single-best reason to join a credit union is for lower loan rates, especially for auto loans.

Financing a $25,000 new car for five years would cost $800 less in interest with a credit union loan compared with a bank loan, on average, Schenk says.

Home equity loans are somewhat lower than banks, less than 1 percentage point difference on average, while mortgage rates are only slightly lower, on average.

Saving rates are higher. Savings rates stink everywhere, so that’s not a huge incentive to switch. But you’ll get marginally better rates at credit unions, on average. A regular savings account earns 0.14 percent at credit unions, compared with 0.08 at banks, according to rates compiled at

Credit card rates are more favorable.
If you carry a balance on a credit card, which for the record is a bad idea, credit union finance charges are lower. For a rewards card, the average interest rate is 9.9 percent, compared with 12.2 percent for banks. A regular credit card is about 1 percentage point lower, on average.

Technology is competitive. High-tech features are yet another traditional advantage of big banks that has eroded. Megabanks are still the innovators for many high-tech features, but many credit unions have mobile apps with mobile deposit — taking a smartphone picture of the check you’re depositing. Many credit unions have person-to-person payments, online bill paying and other features.

“They have a lot of the same bells and whistles you’ve become accustomed to at banks,” McBride says. “There’s just not that much of a gap.”

Gregory Karp, the author of “Living Rich by Spending Smart,” writes for the Chicago Tribune.

©2015 Chicago Tribune
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