Sound Mind Investing - America's Premier Christian Financial Newsletter

Faith-Based Credit Unions:
An Option for Christian Savers

By Joseph Slife
© Sound Mind Investing | April 2010
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Members of a credit union usually have something in common — such as employment at the same company, residency in the same county, or an interest in the economic development of a particular neighborhood or region. Those commonalities exist because credit unions, as non-profit cooperatives, are free to set distinctive requirements regarding who can become a member.

Of the more than 9,000 state and federally chartered credit unions in the U.S., many are overtly Christian in their emphasis. Some are targeted toward people who share a particular theological framework (America's Christian Credit Union, for example, is for "individuals and ministries that align themselves with the Wesleyan Christian doctrine"). Others focus on members of a particular denomination in a certain geographical area (e.g., the Florida Baptist Credit Union). A few, such as the Evangelical Christian Credit Union, offer membership primarily to Christian organizations — churches, associations, and other ministries.

One of the largest and most well-known faith-based credit unions is California-based Christian Community Credit Union, which uses the tagline, "Your Money at Work Building God's Kingdom." Founded in 1957 as the American Baptist Ministers Credit Union, state-chartered CCCU now has nearly 30,000 members across the U.S. and overseas. To become a member, one is asked to affirm a statement that acknowledges that "Jesus Christ is God's only provision for our sin" and "I have received Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord."

With more than $500 million in deposits, CCCU is in the top 5% of credit unions nationwide in terms of assets. These deposits are, in turn, issued as loans. About half of their loan customers are churches and ministries that want to build, remodel, or expand facilities; the rest are individuals looking for mortgages, auto loans, or student loans.

CCCU maintains only two local offices — both in California — but most transactions (from becoming a member to making payroll deposits) can be done online. In addition, members can conduct business at any of hundreds of Credit Union Service Centers nationwide and make surcharge-free withdrawals at thousands of ATMs that are part of the Co-Op Network.

Among the savings options available to CCCU members are competitive-rate CDs ("Kingdom Builder Certificates") that help fund "affordable financing to churches and ministries." CCCU also offers money-market and savings accounts, promising members that their deposits will be "[put] to good works!"

One of the credit union's most popular offerings — the "Cards that Give to Missions & Ministries" program — isn't related to savings at all. It's a credit card program that, rather than offering cash back or airline miles, allows users of CCCU-issued credit cards to "earn" cash rewards that are then donated to various ministry and mission organizations. CCCU launched the program in 1993 and thus far has generated more than $2.8 million in donations. Some of the revenue from the card program goes to fund college/seminary scholarships and to facilitate church planting.

Christian Community Credit Union is not federally insured, but is insured privately (by American Share Insurance) for up to $250,000 per account — the same level as federal insurance. End


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