What Are the Benefits of CO-OP Shared Branches?
Credit unions have a reputation for community involvement, but they also have an extensive national footprint. That’s good news for customers at many credit unions, who have access to thousands of branch locations through CO-OP shared branches.
What Is a CO-OP Shared Branch?
CO-OP shared branches are credit union locations where customers from other credit unions can conduct banking business. If your “home” credit union is part of the shared branching network, you can visit any participating branch nationwide for in-person deposits and withdrawals, loan payments, and other transactions.
How many are there? Over 1,800 credit unions participate in the CO-OP shared branching network, with more than 5,600 branch locations. That’s the second largest branch network in the U.S.—more than Chase Bank, and just a few hundred shy of Wells Fargo’s branch count. Plus, credit union members have surcharge-free access to almost 30,000 ATMs at credit union branches, convenience stores, and other locations.
What Can You Do at a Shared Branch?
With shared branching, you can visit any participating credit union branch and manage your accounts for free.
- Deposits and withdrawals: Visit a branch for basic transactions like cash or check deposits, as well as cash withdrawals. A conveniently-located branch can help you avoid ATM fees when you’re out and about.
- Transfer between accounts: Move money from your savings account to a checking account so that you have funds available for payments.
- Check your balance: Find out how much money you have, what is available for spending, and which transactions have cleared in your account.
- Pay loans: If your payment due date is approaching, make a payment that hits your account instantly to avoid late charges, damage to your credit score, and other penalties.
- Additional services: You may be able to complete additional tasks, although those transactions might require you to pay a modest fee. For example, you might be able to buy cashier’s checks or money orders at a shared branch location.
How to Use a CO-OP Shared Branch
To use another credit union’s branch, find a convenient location, and bring the required items:
- Locate a CO-OP shared branch with the locator tool, the CO-OP app, or by calling 888-748-3266.
- Bring valid government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license or passport.
- Have your “home” credit union’s name and your account number ready.
Ask the staff at the credit union you visit how to use shared branching. Identify yourself as a member of a different credit union, as you may need to use a deposit or withdrawal slip specific to shared branching customers. If you regularly visit the same credit union, grab a few extra deposit slips so you can prepare your transaction ahead of time (or even use the drive-through).
Benefits of Shared Branches
With CO-OP shared branches, you have access to a significant number of locations. Bill Prichard, Director of Public Relations for CO-OP Financial Services, explains that shared branching “enables ‘the best of both worlds.’ Credit unions tend to be smaller, community-centered institutions—and, partially as a result, have a reputation for outstanding, personalized customer service.” At the same time, members of small, local credit unions can conduct business nationwide.
Travel: In most parts of the U.S. (and in some overseas locations), you’re probably near a CO-OP shared branch. That allows you to dodge ATM fees while on vacation or when you’re away at school.
Moving: If you move to a different town, you don’t necessarily need to close your accounts and switch everything over to a new bank. Instead, find a shared branch that’s convenient (or several of them), and continue to use your account.
Emergencies: If you live in an area where natural disasters make travel difficult, or if you’re forced to evacuate, shared branches allow you to keep your finances on track when your branch is inaccessible.
Convenience: Even if you stay in the same town, your credit union might be inconvenient when you’re running errands or trying to avoid traffic. There’s no need to go to your home credit union’s branch if you just need to make a deposit.
For services that a shared branch can’t help with, you can open an account locally, or work with your existing credit union by phone or online. For example, if you want to get a new loan or open a business checking account, you need to work directly with your primary credit union. But once you open those accounts, you can deposit and withdraw (or make loan payments) at a local shared branch.
New to Credit Unions?
If you’re still not sure how credit unions work, read our primer on joining a credit union. These not-for-profit organizations are owned by their customers (or “members”). They typically have competitive rates for deposits and loans, and they are a good bet for free checking accounts.