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Guide to Shared Branch Credit Unions

By Rebecca Lake · June 28, 2022 · 7 minute read

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Guide to Shared Branch Credit Unions

Shared branch credit unions allow members to access banking products and services at other credit union branches that belong to a wider network. Joining a shared branch credit union can make managing your financial accounts more convenient if you live, work, or study in an area where your home credit union doesn’t have branches.

The types of transactions that can be carried out via shared branching are typically the same as those allowed by the home branch. There are, however, a few things you may not be able to do, so here’s a closer look.

Read on to learn:

•   What is shared branch credit union and how does it work?

•   What can members do at a shared branch?

•   What can’t members do a shared branch?

•   Pros and cons of shared branching.

What Is Shared Branching?

Shared branching is the practice of allowing members of one credit union to carry out financial activities at branches of other credit unions that are all located within the same branch network.

Here’s one example: The Co-Op Shared Branch managed by Co-Op Solutions, for example, offers access to more than 5,600 shared branches in the U.S. and over 30,000 surcharge-free ATMs. This shared branching network includes credit unions in all 50 states. This can be very convenient in terms of being able to bank at a variety of locations.

As long as your home credit union, meaning the credit union where you maintain your accounts, is part of a shared branching network, then you can access your accounts at other credit unions within the network. You don’t need to be a member of multiple credit unions to benefit from this sharing system.

Shared branching is a significant departure from traditional banking. If you have checking and savings accounts at Chase Bank, for example, you likely wouldn’t be able to walk into a Bank of America and conduct business.

How Can I Use a Shared Branch?

To use a shared branch credit union, you first have to determine whether your home credit union belongs to a sharing network. Co-Op Solutions, for instance, simplifies this process. It offers a shared branch and ATM locator tool that you can use to find shared credit union branches near you.

Once you find a shared branch, you can visit in-person to manage your accounts. You’ll need to bring a form of photo identification to verify your identity. You may also need to provide your phone number and the last four digits of your Social Security number. And of course, you’ll need the name and account number for your home credit union.

Generally, you can use a shared branch credit union much the same as your home credit union. That means you can use the ATM to make withdrawals or check account balances. If you need to make a deposit or complete other transactions, you can do those through a teller either inside the branch or at the drive-thru.

What Can Members Do at a Shared Branch?

For the most part, shared branch credit unions allow you to carry out the same range of transactions as you would at your home branch. If you’re not sure what a particular shared branch credit union allows, you may be able to find a list of services on the credit union’s website.

Here are some of the most important transactions you can complete via shared branching.

Deposits and Withdrawals

Credit union members can deposit funds to their accounts and make withdrawals through a shared branch credit union. That’s convenient if you need to deposit cash or withdraw money from your accounts. You may also choose to make deposits in-person if you’re concerned about mobile deposit processing times. (And if you’re wondering, “Is mobile deposit safe?”, the answer is yes.)

Transfer Money Between Accounts

Shared branching also allows members to move money between accounts. For example, you may want to shift some of your savings to checking or to a money market account at your credit union.

Can you move money from one bank to another via shared branching? Yes, if you have accounts at more than one credit union. If you need to transfer money from your credit union to a financial institution that’s not part of a shared branch network, then you’ll need to link the external account to schedule an ACH transfer or wire transfer.

If you need to send funds overseas, keep in mind that not all credit unions participate in the SWIFT banking system, which is used to facilitate international wire transfers.

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Make Loan Payments

Credit union members can make payments to auto loans, personal loans, mortgages, and other loans through shared branches. You’ll need the loan number to make your payment. Being able to pay through a shared branch credit union could help you to avoid missed due dates.

What Can Members Not Do at a Shared Branch?

While shared branch credit unions allow for flexibility, there are some things members cannot do. If you belong to a shared branch credit union network, here are some of the things that are typically prohibited.

Open a Bank Account

If you’re visiting a co-op shared branch credit union, you can’t open a new account with your home credit union. Instead, you’d need to go to one of your home credit union’s branches or visit the credit union’s website to open the accounts. Of course, you could ask how to open a business bank account or personal bank account options at the shared branch if you’re interested in being a member of that credit union.

Access Deposited Funds Immediately

Just like banks, credit unions process transactions according to a set schedule. When you deposit money at a shared branch credit union, you can’t expect to be able to withdraw it right away. The deposit hold time or processing time can vary by the credit union. You may be able to expedite processing if the credit union allows it, but you may pay a fee for that.

Withdraw an Unlimited Amount of Money

Shared branch credit unions can impose limits on the amount of money members can withdraw each day. For example, members of the Co-Op Solutions Shared Branch Network limit members to $500 per day in withdrawals when accessing funds at shared branches. That limit may be higher or lower than the limit imposed by your home credit union.

Open an Individual Retirement Account

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) offer a tax-advantaged way to save money for retirement. Credit unions can offer IRAs to savers, though you typically cannot open one through a shared branch. Instead, you’ll need to go to your home credit union to open an IRA either in-person or online.

Benefits of Shared Branching

If you prefer credit unions to traditional banks, then belonging to a shared branch credit union can offer some advantages. Remember, you don’t have to do anything special to enjoy the benefits of shared branching, other than belonging to a credit union that’s part of a sharing network. You don’t have to open multiple bank accounts to have privileges at more locations.

Convenience

Shared branch credit unions make it convenient to access your money wherever you are, as long as there’s a shared branch location nearby. So whether you’re traveling for business, taking a family vacation, or planning a move, you don’t have to worry about leaving your credit union accounts behind.

Flexibility

Doing business at a shared branch credit union allows for flexibility since you can do most of the things you’d be able to do at your home branch. Again, the main things you wouldn’t be able to do include opening new checking or savings accounts, opening an IRA, or applying for a loan. You’d only be able to do those things if you also choose to become a member of the shared branch credit union.

Avoid Fees

How do banks make revenue? By charging fees for the services they provide. Being part of a shared credit union may help you avoid some fees. If you use a shared-branch credit-union ATM network while you’re traveling, you may be able to avoid out-of-network ATM surcharges. While shared branch credit unions may charge fees for certain services, others may be provided free of charge.

Drawbacks of Shared Branching

While shared branching does have some advantages, there are some potential downsides to consider. Here are some of the main cons of using shared branch credit unions.

Availability

Credit unions are not obligated to join a shared branch network. If your home credit union isn’t part of a sharing network, then you’ll be limited to using only that credit union’s branches. That could make managing your accounts more challenging if you regularly travel for business, school, or pleasure.

(However, many people today are used to banking without bricks-and-mortar locations, which is a key difference between online banking versus traditional banking. This availability issue may not be a big concern to some who do their money management online or via an app.)

Withdrawal Limits

As mentioned, credit unions that are part of the Co-Op Solutions network can limit you to cash withdrawals of $500 per day. If you need to withdraw a larger amount in cash, you’d need to find a branch of your credit union to do so, assuming your credit union has a higher daily cash withdrawal limit.

Use Limitations

Shared branch credit unions can be used to do quite a few things but they’re not all-encompassing. There are some transactions that you’ll only be able to do at your credit union’s branch or via the credit union’s website or mobile app.

The Takeaway

Deciding where to keep your money matters. Shared branch credit unions can make banking easier. With shared branches, you don’t have to be limited to a certain geographic area when managing bank accounts in person or via ATM. You can avoid fees by being part of a large network of connected credit unions. While there are some drawbacks, the benefits of convenience and cheaper banking costs can be very appealing to some consumers.

Of course, there’s a lot to be said for online banking and its associated benefits. You can also save money on fees, earn higher interest rates on deposit accounts, and be able to complete many transactions via an app.

SoFi, for example, offers online banking with competitive rates and no fees when you sign up with direct deposit. You can access your money fee-free at more than 55,000 Allpoint network ATMs too.

Better banking is here with up to 3.25% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Should I join a credit union or a bank branch?

It depends on your needs. Joining a credit union could make sense if you’re looking for lower interest rates on loans and fewer fees, provided you meet the credit union’s requirements to join. If you do choose to join a credit union for those benefits, you can still open an account at a traditional or online bank and enjoy the benefits those offer.

Is it good to be part of a credit union?

Credit union membership can offer certain perks that you may not always get at a bank. For example, credit unions may charge lower interest rates for loans while offering higher interest rates on deposit accounts. You may also be able to get access to discount programs and other special incentives for being a member.

Can I withdraw money from any bank branch?

You can withdraw money from any branch of your bank, either by seeing a teller or using the ATM to access your accounts. However, you wouldn’t be able to walk into a branch of Bank A to withdraw cash from accounts held at Bank B.


Photo credit: iStock/Marco VDM

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