You can borrow for less at a credit union.

There are many different kinds of financial institutions that serve consumers. Savings banks, commerial banks, co-operative banks, savings and loans, and credit unions (to name some) all started for different reasons and had different charters. In the last 30 years, however, most of the important differences have been obliterated (savings banks could now offer checking accounts, for example, and commercial banks now do mortrgages). This creates opportunities for borrowers.

Credit unions used to be difficult to get into. But in 1998, federal law loosened the restrictions and today it is usually easier to join a credit union than it is to join a warehouse club store.

Credit unions get certain tax advantages, and most of them take advantage of this subsidy to offer lower interest rates on loans. According to the Wall Street Journal, the average rate for a 48-month used car loan is currently only 6.08%, while the similar rate at banks is 7.94%.

This is a significant difference that could save you hundreds of dollars.

If you want help finding the credit union nearest you, go to the locator section of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) web site (www.creditunion.coop/cu_locator) and type in your zip code. Both locations and membership regulations are listed.

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