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Credit unions in the North Bay tout member benefits for depositing money there

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When choosing a credit union, many consumers might think about ATM locations or reimbursements, but not every potential new client’s mind strays to benefits like roadside auto assistance or pet insurance.

But another credit union has joined others trying to carve out its niche by offering services that a traditional brick-and-mortar bank might not. One way credit unions attempt to distinguish themselves and add value for clients is by offering services that a traditional brick-and-mortar bank might not, focusing on rewards and targeting different kinds of potential clients

Pleasanton-based Patelco Credit Union, with locations throughout the North Bay, last month launched what it calls Plus Checking Benefits. For a monthly fee of $6.95, the account offers more traditional benefits like bimonthly worldwide ATM fee rebates but also features like credit monitoring, cell phone insurance, roadside assistance and identity theft protection.

The account also rounds up a purchase made with a credit union debit card to the nearest dollar and transfers the difference into a savings account where Patelco then matches 10 percent of the rounded-up amount.

The features are based on customer feedback and helping them avoid unforeseen financial issues like car repair and phone replacement, according to Melissa Morgan, Patelco senior vice president and chief retail officer.

The company has about $6 billion in assets and approximately 325,000 members nationwide

These kinds of features are relatively common when it comes to credit unions, according to Cynthia Negri, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Redwood Credit Union, which has $4.4 billion in assets and 328 thousand members in the North Bay.

Beyond ATM fee reimbursements, Negri’s company offers access to different insurance services for members and non-members alike through RCU Insurance Services and is one of the few credit unions in the U.S. that runs its own car lot.

“It’s going to be very different depending on the size of the credit union,” Negri said of the different benefits on offer. “Smaller credit unions don’t always have the ability to offer the same services we do,” she added.

Santa Rosa-based North Bay Credit Union attracts new clients by collaborating with other companies to link new accounts with benefits like phone service, according to an email from CEO Chris Call.

The company counts assets of $50 million and over 2,500 members, and offers features like cash back rewards on debit card purchases and an interest rate of 2 percent on checking account balances of up to $10 thousand.

Other features also include deals on pet insurance as well as $100 in cash for each phone line a customer opens with Sprint and a $100 gift card for signing up with ADT protection services.

Todd Sheffield, CEO of Santa Rosa-based-based Community First Credit Union said in an email that his company offered a free credit score program, which he characterized as better protection than identity theft protection. The company counts assets of $457.7 million.

“The number one reason customers become Members of CFCU is convenient locations. I’d be surprised to hear if customers opened an account for free cell phone insurance,” he wrote.

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