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Municipal Credit Union celebrates its 85th year

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City workers might think that banks are their only option for keeping their money. But they have something other workers do not — the Municipal Credit Union.

The Manhattan-headquartered MCU, now celebrating its 85th anniversary, has no corporate or commercial ties. Members of the organization — created to protect workers from loan sharks in the early 20th century — hail, for the most part, from Queens.

“We’ve come a long way since the ledger pads and ink wells of our first office,” said William Porter, MCU’s president. “Our methods may have changed, but our mission remains the same. We take the greatest pride in working for the people who work for New York.”

MCU has some 300,000 members who can use seven branches throughout the city, as far as east as Elmont, which is on the Queens-Nassau border. More than 1,000 members are seen per day at the Elmhurst branch, Queens’ busiest, said branch manager Rhodora Rodriguez.

The credit union is also available to state and federal employees who live in the city.

On a recent Thursday afternoon, people were already lining up to buy money orders, balance checking accounts, and make withdrawals.

Rodriguez said city employees get better interest rates on savings and loans. “Right now we have a loan sale at 4.5 percent,” she said, adding that workers can even start an account with $5.

“We give you a year to build your balance up to at least $500,” she said. “Once you have $500, you earn interest.”

The credit union can be used to finance anything a bank would traditionally do, but with the workers’ pooled resources: mortgages, loans and home equities just for starters.

CDs, IRA accounts and auto loans are also available from MCU. Car dealers who work with the credit union offer good financing on loan rates, Rodriguez said.

“They don’t even have to come here, they just go to the dealership,” she said. Payments are made through payroll deduction.

The MCU also offers Visa cards backed up by a deposit from the employee. “They’re good for people just starting out, who want to build their credit,” Rodriguez said.

Debit cards, called check cards, are also available. “If you don’t want to get into debt, it’s an excellent type of card to have,” Rodriguez said. “It’s also good for vacations.”

“I think it’s an excellent way of tracking down expenses,” she added.

Rodriguez said about 4 percent of MCU members currently take advantage of the cooperative’s new on-line banking services.

Through the new Internet service, members can transfer funds, pay loans, and balance Visa accounts. There is also a touch-tone telephone service members can use to access their account, which Rodriguez said is especially useful to fire, police and health care workers who work odd hours and have trouble coming in during normal business hours.

MCU also offers direct depositing from payrolls, and penalty-free protection from overdrawn checking accounts.

Members can access their money from the MCU’s ATM machines for no surcharge, another advantage.

“We have ATMs in a lot of locations,” Rodriguez said, citing St. John’s and Mary Immaculate hospitals.

Spouse and children of employees can also be sponsored by members to open accounts at MCU.

“We have accounts for children and for teenagers, where they get their own ATM cards, as well as loans for tuition,” Rodriguez said.

Retirees may also rejoin MCU if they can show proof of service.

Potential new members can call toll free, 1-866-JOIN-MCU (1-866-564-6628).

Reach reporter Daniel Arimborgo by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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