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Which Is Better, A Credit Union Or A Bank?



Question: My boyfriend and I are talking about marriage. We’ve taken your advice and had several very honest conversations about money, since we know finances are a big cause of fights. We’ve settled a lot of things, but we have this weird sticking point: My boyfriend insists I get rid of my Bank of America account and sign up with his credit union.

My boyfriend really really hates “big banks,” although it’s not like any of these banks did anything to him — he’s been with his credit union forever. (His dad was in the Army, so he’s with PenFed.) I don’t mind opening another account, but I like that Bank of America has ATMs and branches everywhere. While this won’t break us up, it really is the biggest fight we’ve ever had. What do I do?

— Katey in Arizona

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

In my 20-plus years as a CPA and financial counselor, I’ve met with many couples whose relationships were stretched thin by money fights. I must admit, however, I’ve never seen a couple argue over Bank of America.

First, let me acknowledge you both make some excellent points…

  • PenFed is an excellent credit union. In fact, it offers one of the nation’s best credit cards. Earlier this year, called it “the credit card for people who hate credit cards,” since it imposes no fees whatsoever.
  • Bank of America isn’t an evil empire. I know many people who are quite happy with big banks. editor Michael Koretzky has his mortgage there because it actually worked out to be the best deal at that moment.

With that said, your boyfriend needs to learn how to compromise. In matters of love and money, I’ve learned this from counseling more couples than I can even count: It’s not about complete agreement on the details, it’s about philosophical agreement on how to save and spend.

Your boyfriend is doing you a favor by encouraging you to join his excellent credit union. Just the other day, I was reading a new study called the Credit Union Satisfaction Index 2015. The biggest finding: 90 percent of credit union customers are satisfied with the overall service. That’s high for any industry, but it’s actually up one point from 2014.

Meanwhile, banks rated only a 782 out of 1,000, according to JD Power. That translates into just over 78 percent.

Still, pressuring you to leave Bank of America isn’t a sound decision financially or emotionally. If you’re in the 78 percent, and not paying fees to Bank of America to keep your account there, this episode is a good lesson in more than money. It reveals how your relationship will proceed on all kinds of issues where you two differ.

You’re offering a healthy compromise by moving some of your money into PenFed. If your boyfriend wants to convince you to move the rest, the best way to do that is to put your money where his mouth is: Prove over the course of a year just how much money you saved and made by making the switch. If that adds up, you sound like a smart enough woman, Katy, to make an objective decision.

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