About WECU

What makes WECU® so unique?

You make WECU® unique! First of all, Whatcom Educational Credit Union is not a bank. We are a nonprofit financial cooperative where members are encouraged to save and borrow responsibly at fair and competitive rates. At WECU®, you're not just an account number. You are a part of WECU® - a member of the Credit Union.

The board of directors for WECU® consists of nine volunteers elected by Credit Union members at our annual meeting, held each year in January. Also elected at the annual meeting are three supervisory committee members. These dedicated men and women provide general direction over the business and affairs of WECU®.

WECU's mission is to provide the means for members to achieve their dreams. We strive to treat both members and staff with honesty and integrity and to be a socially responsible component of our community. WECU® also endeavors to be one of the county's employers of choice.

The credit union difference

The following lists of services and commitments are what separate a credit union from the rest of the financial world. We are constantly striving to provide more and better services.

Section 1: Service to members
Financial Counseling
HomeStart program
Checking accounts
Low minimum balance certificates
Small loans available
Member satisfaction surveys
No surcharge ATMs
First time mortgages
Non-discriminatory loan application language
Foreign language staff roster
Staff diversity training through internal programs
Exclusive members only car sales
NADA (national automotive dealer's association) and new car and truck cost guides available in lobbies
Appreciation picnic for senior members
Member classified ad boards in lobbies and on web site
Benefit fairs at local schools and hospital
Educational financial coloring books and crayons
Annual meeting dinner for members to elect new volunteers
Complimentary coffee, candy, stickers, and dog treats
Lobby telephones and calculators
Home banking and bill payment by phone or computer
Education Center use available to non-profit community at no charge
Section 2: Member education
High school money management presentations
Web site
Monthly newsletter
Balance Financial Fitness partner
Member seminars
Section 3: Volunteer Involvement
Board attendance standards
Committee participation
Training through VAP (volunteer achievement program) modules, classes and conferences
Staff special event participation
Section 4: Diversity
Affirmative action plan
Section5: Credit Union Movement
Provide small credit union consulting
Supports state CU Foundation
Supports Northwest Credit Union Association
Contributes to state and federal political action committee

Credit union Philosophy

In 1935, when credit unions were helping Americans through the Great Depression, the treasurer of a Midwestern credit union said that credit unions were "not for profit, not for charity, but for service," and that philosophy holds true today. Philosophy

Credit Unions continue to look out for their members' interests and provide a level of service that is not generally available at other financial institutions. Whether it's providing a loan to help a member cover unexpected medical bills, giving financial counseling to a member whose company closed its doors, or simply offering a better deal on a used car loan, credit unions make a difference for their members and the communities they serve.

The National Cooperative Business Association developed seven cooperative principles, which were adopted in 1995 by the International Cooperative Alliance. The principles are a modified version of the original Rochdale Principles, which were named after the first successful co-op, started in Rochdale, England in the 1840's.

The CUNA Cooperative Alliances Committee expanded on the seven principles in order to more directly reflect credit unions' structures and characteristics, including fields of membership, emphasis on member education, and desire to serve members from all walks of life, including people of modest means.

"We feel tailoring the NCBA principles in this way will draw more credit unions to them- and help them better understand the roots and values we share with other co-ops," said William Herring, chairman of the CUNA Cooperative Alliance Committee and CEO of Cincinnati Central CU Inc.

Seven Cooperative Principles for Credit Unions

  1. Voluntary Membership: Credit unions are voluntary, cooperative organizations, offering services to people willing to accept the responsibilities and benefits of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination. Many cooperatives, such as credit unions, operate as nonprofit institutions with volunteer board of directors. In the case of credit unions, members are drawn from defined fields of membership.
  2. Democratic Member Control: Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members, one member one vote, with equal opportunity for participation in setting policies and making decisions.
  3. Members' Economic Participation: Members contribute to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. This benefits members in proportion to the transactions with the cooperative rather than on the capital invested. For credit unions, which typically offer better rates, fees and service than for-profit financial institutions, members recognize benefits in proportion to the extent of their financial transactions and general usage.
  4. Autonomy and Independence: Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the cooperative enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the member and maintains the cooperative autonomy.
  5. Education, Training and Information: Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of the cooperative. Credit Unions place particular importance on educational opportunities for their volunteer directors, and financial education for their members and the public, especially the nation's youth. Credit unions also recognize the importance of ensuring the general public and policy makers are informed about the nature, structure and benefits of cooperatives.
  6. Cooperation Among Cooperatives: Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, state, regional, national, and international structures.
  7. Concern for Community: While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities, including people of modest means, through policies developed and accepted by the members. These seven principles are founded in the philosophy of cooperation and its central values of equality, equity and mutual self-help. They express, around the world, the principles of human development and the brotherhood of man through people working together to achieve a better life for themselves and their community.

Copyright 2005 - Credit Union National Association, Inc.

Charitable Contributions

As a member of our thriving community, WECU® endeavors to promote education, health and community concerns. In addition to financial contributions WECU® employees and members alike participate and contribute to various community projects. Please refer to our Donations page for a complete list of the organizations and projects we have supported.

Why are credit unions tax exempt?

  1. nonprofit: Credit unions are tax-exempt because of their nonprofit nature and cooperative structure. When the federal tax program began nearly 100 years ago, the U.S. Attorney General decided credit unions should be tax-exempt because they were "organized and operated for mutual purposes (in which an organization's members share in the earnings and expenses) and without profit."

    At that time, all credit unions were state chartered. In the 1930's, members began organizing federally chartered credit unions and the question arose: should federally chartered credit unions be tax-exempt? Eventually congress passed a law making federally chartered credit unions exempt from federal income tax and most state taxes due to their structure as "mutual or cooperative organizations operated entirely by and for their members."
  2. Parity with Federal Law: Washington State does not have an income tax. State-chartered credit unions are exempt from the B&O tax for two reasons: 1) to recognize our credit unions' nonprofit nature and cooperative structure, and 2) to create parity between federally chartered and state chartered credit unions.
  3. Efforts to Build Capital: Some critics look at credit unions' tax exemption and argue that the historical reasons for the tax exemption are no longer relevant, that credit unions should now have to pay B&O taxes. However, there are several reasons why credit unions should retain their B&O exemption.

    First, exemption from B&O tax doesn't mean credit unions do not pay taxes. Credit unions pay excise taxes; social security taxes, sales tax, property taxes, Medicare taxes, unemployment taxes, and many other taxes just like any other financial institution or business in Washington State.

    Second, unlike banks, credit unions are severely limited by state and federal law in their efforts to raise capital. Credit unions are organized as nonprofit cooperatives therefore state and federal laws prohibit them from accessing additional capital through the sale of stock, a resource available to most other financial institutions.

    Tax-exemption is an issue that will most likely be the subject of future attacks by banks. As credit union members, we need to understand the reasons behind the tax exemption so we can educate our communities and legislators in our efforts to save our tax exemption.

*Capitol Issues, Governmental Affairs Affecting Washington Credit Unions, February, 2000, a publication of the Washington Credit Union League and Affiliates.

The Credit Union Movement

Pierre Jay, the Massachusetts banking commissioner, recommended in 1908 the legislature pass a law to organize credit unions after meetings with Alphonse Desjardins, a Canadian journalist.

Desjardins had organized the first North American credit union in 1900 and guided immigrant mill workers from Manchester, N.H., in starting the first U.S. credit union in 1908. Jay called on Desjardins to assist him in formally bringing this type of banking to the U.S. On March 3, 1909, the Boston Merchants Association and the Senate Banking Committee officially supported the bill, which Jay had drafted.

The Massachusetts Credit Union Act became law April 15, 1909, making Massachusetts the first state to pass a general statue incorporating credit unions. Under this act, credit unions were defined as "a cooperative association formed for the purpose of promoting thrift among its members."

Jay remained heavily involved in the continued development of credit unions despite his move to New York City. He remained conservative in ideas of national expansion, wanting first to prepare a model set of bylaws for those interested in establishing a credit union.

Sparking the credit union movement, the act further led to the formation of the Massachusetts Credit Union Association, directed by Roy F. Bergengren. With the formation of the association and the organization of 19 new credit unions in Massachusetts, the credit union movement transformed into a national campaign. Bergengren headed this campaign, and Edward A. Filene financed it. Consequently, the Credit Union National Extension Bureau was formed in 1921.

By 1930, credit union laws existed in 32 states and 1,100 credit unions had been established.

By Jillian Shaw CUNA.org January 2006.

Credit Union Differentiation

Whatcom Educational Credit Union is not a bank. We are a nonprofit financial cooperative where members are encouraged to save and borrow responsibly at fair and competitive rates.

WECU® endeavors to promote education, health and community concerns through quarterly donations. We have a strong commitment to the needs of our community. WECU's Social Responsibility Committee (SRC) oversees our monetary donations and participation in community projects. The committee seeks to support local educational, health and community concerns. WECU® actively seeks projects that address a strong need in our community, (e.g. violence, homelessness, drug abuse). WECU® employees also participate in a variety of sweat equity projects, including maintenance of Bellingham's South Bay Trail and Habitat for Humanity landscaping.

In addition to quarterly donations, WECU® hosts a free community seminar program that addresses various financial and educational topics. As part of our effort to promote educational and community concerns we allow nonprofit groups to hold meetings in our Education Centers (located in downtown Bellingham and at our Ferndale Branch) in the evenings and on weekends at no cost. We also have a specific position within our Marketing Department that was created to deal with financial literacy and outreach to the statistically underserved groups in our community.

As a credit union our tax-exempt status allows us to give back to our membership, returning profit to our members in lower loan interest rates, above-market savings dividends and a wealth of products and services. A prime example of this is our $13 over-draft fee, which is currently the lowest in Whatcom County.

Additionally, WECU's 16 no-surcharge ATMs are beneficial to both our members and the general population of Whatcom County. We also began accepting Quest cards at our ATMs in 2008. The Quest card allows consumers to access government funds such as Social Security, Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) and Basic Food benefits. Offering Quest access at our ATMs helps us fulfill our goal of serving all community members. As a credit union, it is part of our mission to serve the underserved. Recipients of the Quest program are often some of the most in need within our communities.

WECU® members also have surcharge-free access to all ATMs that display the Co-Op network logo (including all 7-11 ATMs). All in all, WECU® members have access to over 25,000 no surcharge ATMs across the US and Canada.

But WECU's relationship with our membership extends beyond fantastic products and extraordinary service. Our members also have access to a free confidential financial counseling through our partnership with BALANCE.

Through BALANCE, WECU® members may contact a qualified financial counselor via telephone or online six days a week. BALANCE Infoline counselors can answer a wide variety of financial and credit related questions. BALANCE counselors can also review credit reports, design a plan to get out of debt or buy a house, or help WECU® members develop a workable budget. In addition to caring for the financial well being of our members' personal accounts, WECU's Member Business Services Department provides much needed services for member businesses. WECU's Member Business Services offers business account products in a low fee, service focused environment. WECU's various business loans (e.g. commercial real estate, lines of credit, equipment loans, and VISAs) provide the means for many smaller businesses to succeed and thrive.

WECU's mission is to provide all members with legendary financial products and services in a financially safe and sound environment. We strive to treat both members and staff with honesty and integrity and to be a socially responsible component of our community.