RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (November 7, 2013) - Credit unions are generally smaller financial institutions than commercial banks, yet because of cooperation between these not-for-profit organizations, the "credit union movement" is able to serve members of individual credit unions nationwide.
Among the best examples of this is a network of ATMs larger than any single bank, and a network of "shared branch" locations larger than all but three national banks.
CO-OP ATM, managed on behalf of 3,500 client credit unions by CO-OP Financial Services of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., is a network of 30,000 ATMs across the country. This network enables members (customers) of participating credit unions to access their accounts without incurring a surcharge fee. At 30,000 ATMs, the credit union network is larger than the biggest dedicated bank network.
These ATMs can not only be found on the premises of credit union branches, but in thousands of retail locations such as 7-Eleven, Walgreens and Costco.
Credit union members can easily find out if their credit union belongs to CO-OP ATM by visiting www.allco-op.org. Or, if they have a debit card from their institution, they can simply turn over the card, and they will more than likely discover the red triangle logo of the network.
The Unique Concept of Shared Branching
The same cooperative spirit has enabled credit unions to compete on an equal footing with banks in terms of convenient access to branches. The credit union movement incorporates a unique concept known as shared branching, which enables members of one participating credit union to enter the branch of another and transact their business as if they were at their own home branch.
CO-OP Financial Services also manages what is by far the largest such network in the industry, known as CO-OP Shared Branch. This network incorporates more than 5,000 "live teller branches" throughout the country, augmented by 2,000 self-service locations. About 1,800 credit unions nationwide participate in this network.
With 5,000 branches, the CO-OP Shared Branch network trails only three national banks in terms of size. Credit unions are catching up fast to their competitors, and the sky seems the only limit. CO-OP Financial Services estimates that if all 7,000 U.S. credit unions participated in the CO-OP Shared Branch network, it would number about 20,500 branches.
Rebranding in Progress
In 2011, CO-OP Financial Services merged with Ontario, Calif.-based Financial Service Centers Cooperative, Inc. (FSCC), uniting the industry's principle shared branching networks under single management.
The merger enabled CO-OP Financial Services to establish a common brand, a common look and feel to logos and signage identifying participating credit unions. This updated consumer branding was rolled out in the summer as the former industry-branded CU Service Centers began adopting CO-OP Shared Branch signage.
CO-OP Financial Services is also using this initiative to slightly revise the branding of its ATM network, with CO-OP Network becoming CO-OP ATM.
Both brand changes are intended to help members more easily identify the service they need. And, indeed, consumers hoping to maximize all manner of banking services by checking out their local credit union will be able to find one easily via CO-OP's new website at www.allco-op.org.