Philadelphia Federal Credit Union: we expect better

So, we expect big banks to charge high fees. They love to screw over people lending them their paychecks to invest. But credit unions?

Credit Unions are supposed to be a better deal, right?

I have had a pretty OK experience with PFCU since I came to Philadelphia. It's not quite the credit Union I grew up in in Kansas where all the tellers knew me on site and knew who my mom was to, but it's been okay. I recently got nailed for a couple fees from them that seem pretty ridiculous.

I confess: on the face of it, it's all my fault. The rub is two-fold tho. 1) the money was there and 2) it's a pretty big charge for what comes down to an honest mistake.

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So, here's the deal, my employer still thinks it's 1992, so we get paychecks. We don't do direct deposit. So I have to go to the bank and fill out a form to make my bank deposit. This last time I went, I apparently accidentally wrote that I wanted to deposit all the money into my Savings and not my checking.

When I got home, I went into my ING Direct account. I keep two accounts in there that I set aside money in and pay bills out of, because all that works easier out of ING. So every time I get a paycheck I do two withdrawals from my PFCU savings for most of the money. Whatever I leave in PFCU is just my spending money, for the most part.

Because I hadn't actually made a deposit into my Checking, I'd made it into my Savings, there was hardly any money in my Checking. There was plenty in Savings, but not my Checking.

At the Credit Union I grew up in, they would have just rolled it over, but instead I got two charges for $25 apiece.

So I find this out the next day and moved the money over to my Checking. When I looked at my ING Account later, one of the two transactions had actually gone thru.

PFCU says that ING tried to withdraw those funds again, so that's why it worked later. They did not, however, do this for the other withdrawal.

Yet I still have two charges for $25.

All the while, there's plenty of money in my account to cover all of this. I just put a number down on the wrong line of a stupid form.

It's exactly the way Big Banks find ways to nail customers for more money. Look for some little mistake people make sometimes. Charge them for it. Even if there's an easy fix. Even if there's a way you could let them off without costing anyone anything (transfer it from my Savings, for example), they hide behind rules and policies.

But at the end of the day, PFCU just made $50 without any work, without making the world any better and definitely without looking out for the best interests of their customers.

We expect better of Credit Unions. That's all I'm saying.

I'm also a member and don't feel like it's a real credit union.

Among other things, credit unions are supposed to be co-ops, owned by their members. But PFCU does nothing to build community spirit, or a sense that it's a unique institution with lending policies that have any broader objectives than a typical bank. It does a lot of self-promotion, but it's all about its relatively high interest rates on deposits, and low ones on loans. I was also nickle and dimed once years back but I don't remember the details. Most disappointing though is that PFCU doesn't even pretend that its members have any say in how its run. It's been years since I was even solicited for a proxy vote for Directors. I have no idea who runs the place.


I often see them advertising loan programs that make me say, "is that really good?"

I know someone who got a mortgage from them who said it did feel more co-op'y in that process, but... yeah, in general, I can't tell the difference.

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Did you ask for a refund of the fees?

It's understandable that in this day and age of automation, as opposed to actual humans taking care of every transaction, that the fees are charged to your account. The computer decides. But many banks, and I would hope PFCU especially, are willing to refund fees in situations like this when specifically asked.

I don't bank with PFCU, but have considered them. I have an account with the Police & Fire Federal Credit Union due to a series of acquisitions of the coop that Weavers Way Coop members can join. Anyway, one thing that does seem positive about PFCU is that they have made it possible for anyone in Philadelphia to join, lowering the barrier to credit union membership, which had previously generally required either a union job or much narrower geographic parameters.

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