Who we are...
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 part of our community. WECU® also endeavors to be one of the county's employers of choice.
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.
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.
As a member of our 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 more information about donations.
Why Are Credit Unions Tax Exempt?
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
The WECU Difference
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® has 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. We actively seek projects that address a strong need in our community, (e.g. violence, homelessness, drug abuse). Employees also participate in a variety of sweat equity projects throughout Whatcom County.
In addition to quarterly donations, WECU® hosts a free seminar program that addresses various financial and educational topics. WECU® also allows nonprofit groups to hold meetings in our Education Centers. There is even a specific position department that was created to improve 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 and fees as well as competitive savings dividends. A great example of this is our $16.00 overdraft fee, which is currently the lowest in Whatcom County.
Additionally, WECU's 17 no-surcharge ATMs are beneficial to both our members and the general population of Whatcom County.
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.
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. For more information about BALANCE, click here.
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. Our team 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.