By Nancy Brumback, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – When is a bank not a bank? When it's a credit union. Central One Federal Credit Union offers all the services of a bank with a local touch and without the fees.
While credit unions originally were intended to serve specific groups of people, today's federally-chartered credit unions function much as a bank does, with location in a specific area the only restriction.
Central One got its start in 1952 as a credit union for employees of the New England Electric System and their families, and remained an organizational credit union until 1998, when it changed to a credit union with a community charter.
“Now, the only requirement is that you live, work, attend school or church, or own a business in one of the 25 towns” in the charter area, said Marketing Manager Monique Rose. The towns run from Harvard and Lancaster south to Auburn and Upton, and from Marlborough and Southborough west to Rutland.
“Joining a credit union means opening an account,” she said. “Put as little as $5 in a savings account and you'se a member. And you can remain a member, even if you move away from the area.
“There are no dues, no crazy rituals. We don's make you wear funny outfits,” she said with a laugh.
Members are the owners of the credit union, which is overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors elected by the members.
“We don's have stockholders, so we are not trying to generate fee income to make a profit,” Rose said.
“There is also no incentive to merge with other financial institutions, so the credit union will always be there. Some employees have been with us for over 20 years.”
Rose noted that, because of the local nature of Central One's business, it is very involved with the communities it serves, including offering a financial literacy course in the high schools.
Central One provides all of the services a bank doesâ”checking and savings accounts, credit and debit cards, and online banking and bill paying. Checking accounts and debit cards are free. Members can get mortgages and loans through the credit union.
“The only difference is you won's have any minimum balance fees on your statement each month,” Rose said.
Central One's main office is at 714 Main St. in Shrewsbury, and there are branches in Westborough, Auburn and Northborough. The branches have ATM machines, and Central One members can also use ATM machines affiliated with the SUM network around the country without a service fee. The SUM network was developed by community banks and credit unions across the United States.
Funds in Central One accounts are federally insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration, with IRAs insured separately up to the same amount, similar to the way bank accounts are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
“If you are interested in moving your accounts to Central One, it's very simple,” Rose said. “Any of the agents at our branches can help you through the process.”
For more information, call the main office at 508-842-7400 or one of the branches, or visit the website, www.centralfcu.com.