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  • Learn About Credit Unions
    • Historical Timeline of Credit Unions

      As not-for-profit depository institutions, credit unions were created to serve members as credit cooperatives.

    • How is a Credit Union Different than a Bank?

      In the United States, credit unions are not-for-profit organizations that exist to serve their members rather than to maximize corporate profits.

    • How to Find a Credit Union in Your Area

      Once you select a specific credit union, you can view more details about that credit union, including contact information, branch locations, services offered, and recent financial statements.

    • How to Join a Credit Union

      Anybody can join a credit union. Each credit union serves what’s called their “field of membership” – that’s the commonality between the members.

    • How to Start a Credit Union

      If your group is eligible, NCUA's staff will assist you with preparing an application for a charter and see that your group receives guidance in getting your federal credit union started.

    • Is a Credit Union Right for Me?

      Because credit unions are not-for-profit financial institutions, their focus is serving the financial needs of their members and not making a profit.

    • Credit Union and Bank Interest Rate Comparison

      In general, credit unions offer higher savings rates, meaning that your money grows faster, and lower rates on loans, meaning that you will owe less over the lifetime of the loan.

    • Learn More About Your Credit Union

      NCUA makes financial information about credit unions available to the public through Financial Performance Reports (FPRs).

    • Low Income Credit Unions

      Credit unions provide valuable access to financial services for people underserved and unserved by traditional financial institutions.

    • Understanding Differences in Federal vs. Privately Insured Credit Unions

      Federally-chartered credit unions are regulated by the National Credit Union Administration and insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, which is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government.

    • What is a Credit Union?

      A federal credit union is a cooperative financial institution chartered by the federal government and owned by individual members.

  • Protect Your Finances
    • Consumer Protection Update

      Watch the latest NCUA Consumer Protection Update video to learn about important updates and changes that may affect you as a consumer."

    • Credit Reports and Credit Scores

      It’s a good idea to monitor your credit report on a regular basis to make sure that the information is accurate. You can also verify that no one has stolen your identity to make fraudulent charges.

    • Share Insurance Coverage

      Federally insured credit unions offer a safe place for you to save your money, with deposits insured up to $250,000, per individual depositor.

    • Online Financial Safety Tips

      When performing transactions on your credit union's website, it's wise to make sure that the website is legitimate and that your deposits are federally insured.

    • Prevent Identity Theft

      If you believe that someone has stolen your identity, you should contact any credit union, bank or creditor where you have an account that you think may be the subject of identity theft.

    • Frauds and Scams

      NCUA reports on frauds and scams aimed at credit union members. In this section, we provide an overview of recent activity.

    • Scams Targeting Seniors

      America's growing senior population is vulnerable to a broad range of financial crimes. In this section, NCUA provides tips on how seniors can protect themselves from fraud.

    • Tips for Young Adults

      Credit unions offer young adults desirable, affordable financial services, as well as the advantage of personal service developed to help them grow their savings. Many credit unions offer services within schools or have student-run branches.

    • Pocket Cents

      Learn about the history of money, different currencies used around the world, the power of dividends and how to be smart about preparing for your financial future with Pocket Cents from NCUA.

    • Understand Your Privacy Rights

      Federal privacy laws give you the right to stop (opt out of) some sharing of your personal financial information. The law permits your financial companies to share certain information about you without giving you the right to opt out.

  • Financial Tools and Resources
    • Brochures and Graphics

      These brochures and graphics may be linked, downloaded, or printed.

    • Calendar of Events

      View a listing of upcoming events, designations, and opportunities for each month.

    • College Scorecard

      Plan your entire financial aid packages online for all of the schools that you are considering.

    • Consumer Loan Calculator

      Explore your consumer loan, including the effect of adjusting number of payments, principal and interest rate on your monthly payment.

    • Consumer Resources

      Use these references and tools to make better informed financial decisions.

    • FAQs

      Locate answers in the Knowledge Base to a wide variety of frequently asked questions.

    • Games and Activities

      Test your financial knowledge with these games and activities for all ages.

    • Glossary

      Become an educated consumer by taking the mystery out of commonly used financial terms.

    • Lesson Plans and Resources

      Educators and parents can use these plans and resources to teach youth, tweens, and teens about saving, spending, budgeting, and the value of money.

    • Mortgage Loan Calculators

      Compare monthly payments and the amount of equity you would build with several kinds of fixed and adjustable rate mortgages.

    • Personal Budgeting Worksheet

      Take a close look at your income and expenses with this helpful worksheet that can identify where you might have room to save.

    • Savings & Retirement Calculator

      Get estimates based on your actual Social Security earnings record with this calculator.

    • Share Insurance Estimator

      Are your deposits insured? Find out with NCUA’s electronic Share Insurance Estimator.

    • Videos

      View NCUA's Consumer Report and Consumer Protection Update videos on current financial hot topics.

  • Credit Unions and You
    • Dealing with Debt

      Bill payer services, or debt consolidation services, can help consumers preserve their credit scores by merging debts and establishing a workable schedule to pay down money owed to creditors through a single monthly payment.

    • Buying A Car

      It's important to know how to make a smart deal. Your credit union can discuss car loan options with you.

    • Paying off Credit Cards

      Read your statement carefully for information about how long it would take to pay off your account balance if you only pay the minimum payment. It can take years, even decades, to pay it off.

    • Home Ownership and Mortgage Options

      Once you are ready to buy a home, consult your credit union about competitive interest rates and to find out about your mortgage options, including the term of the loan and the conditions.

    • Mortgage Modifications

      NCUA encourages credit unions to work constructively with residential mortgage borrowers who may be unable to meet their contractual payment obligations.

    • Preparing for Retirement

      Between longer life expectancies and fewer employers offering traditional pension plans, it’s a good idea to take an active role in planning for retirement.

    • Saving for College

      Whether you are saving for your own education or for your children’s, it’s wise to start planning for college as soon as possible.

    • Short Term Loans

      Payday loans (a.k.a. deferred advance loans, cash advance loans, check advance loans, post-dated check loans, or deferred deposit check loans) are loans borrowers promise to repay from their next paycheck or salary deposit.

Pocket Cents
  • Youth

    Have you ever thought about why money is worth anything? It's just paper and ink, or a small piece of stamped metal. To do a lot of things we need to use money. Money can give you choices and independence. Have you ever thought about how you could earn your own money? Or, how much money you should you save? The way you manage your money could determine if are able to buy food, a movie ticket, a pair of jeans, just about everything. Learn about the history of money, why we use it, how to save it, and how to protect it.

  • Teens and Tweens

    You may be thinking about your first checking or savings account, your first job, or even your first car. Soon, you will have the opportunity to pursue your dreams. You could go to college, launch your career, or start a business. No matter what you decide, you will need money to make it happen. It's never too early to learn smart financial habits. Whether saving a portion of a weekly allowance or understanding the deductions on the pay stub from a first job, good money management skills can last a lifetime. In this section, you will not only learn how to prepare financially for life after high school, but also how to avoid scams and common money mistakes.

  • Young Adults

    Are you prepared to make wise and informed financial decisions? Do you know how to recognize predatory credit offers? Can you balance a checkbook? Do you have a savings plan? Smart financial choices you make today could help you can achieve that new car purchase, or sail through an apartment lease or mortgage application. However, money mistakes when you're just starting out can leave you in debt and ruin your credit score. Learn how to live within a budget, handle credit and debt, and build a solid financial foundation for your future.

  • Parents And Educators

    How do you teach kids about money? It may be as simple as talking about your job, taking a trip to the grocery store, or opening a savings account at a credit union to deposit allowance and birthday money. The bottom line is that it’s never too early to start teaching children smart financial habits and the value of money. Educating, motivating, and empowering kids to become regular savers will enable them to keep more of the money they earn. Whether at home or in the classroom, this section will provide you with the tools and resources to teach kids how to grow into financially responsible adults. The reward could mean a life free from the anxieties of debt.

  • Seniors

    Did you know that seniors account for almost 30% of all fraud victims? Whether you are looking for information for yourself or for a loved one, in this section you will learn how to defend against these scams, as well as, find information on reverse mortgages, prepaid funerals, emergency savings, and long-term care. Additionally, you will find articles that will help with money management, post-retirement planning, and maximizing government benefits.

  • Marriage and Family

    You may have a retirement account. But, do you really know how much you should be saving? Do you budget to save, and not just when you have extra money left over in your paycheck? Have you thought about saving for college? Does your family have an emergency fund? Anyone can learn how to save money and invest in their future. In this section, you will learn how to take control of your financial future, including how to defend against fraud and scams, tips on buying a car or home, how to handle credit and debt, and information about credit reports.

  • Servicemembers

    Are you financially ready? Servicemembers and military families face unique financial challenges, whether on active duty, returning to civilian life, or living as a veteran. In recent years, servicemembers have joined the ranks of those who are considered most vulnerable to predatory lenders and identity theft. Most military families today are not saving adequately for retirement, and many do not have an emergency fund. In this section, you will learn how to protect yourself from financial vulnerabilities, as well as, how to budget, save, and handle debt and credit. Additionally, learn about free financial resources, benefits, and special protections offered by the U.S. government for servicemembers and their families.


What is Check 21?

A federal law, known as Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act (Check 21), makes it easier for financial institutions to electronically transfer check/share draft images instead of physically transferring paper checks. This guide explains your rights under Check 21 as they relate to substitute checks. A substitute check is a special paper copy of the front and back of your original check that is created to replace the original check.

How does Check 21 affect you?

Because of Check 21 and other check-system improvements, your checks may be processed faster - which means money may be deducted from your checking account faster. Before you write a check, make sure that your checking account has enough money in it to cover the check.

Like the majority of consumers, you may not receive your canceled checks with your account statement. Instead, you may receive "pictures" (known as digital images) of your checks, a list of your paid checks, or a combination of these items. Check 21 will have little or no effect on these practices.

On the other hand, if you do get your canceled checks back in your regular account statements, you may notice some changes under Check 21. For example, your financial institution may start sending you a combination of original checks and substitute checks in your account statements. You may use a canceled substitute check as proof of payment just as you would use a canceled original check.

The account agreement you have with your financial institution governs whether you receive canceled checks with your account statements. If you currently get canceled checks back with your statements, you will continue to receive your checks unless your financial institution notifies you that it is changing your account agreement.

You may receive substitute checks in other limited circumstances. For example, your financial institution may give you a substitute check if you ask to have a particular canceled check back to prove a payment. Also, your financial institution might provide a substitute check to you when returning a "bounced" check (a check returned when the account does not have enough money to cover the amount of the check) that you deposited into your account.

By law, your financial institution may not pay a check from your account unless you authorized that payment. In other words, you are protected from having your financial institution pay the same check from your account more than once or from having your financial institution pay the wrong amount for a check. Check 21 does not change these protections. However, Check 21 does give you special rights if you receive a substitute check from your financial institution. This guide explains your rights regarding substitute checks. For your rights in other situations, contact your financial institution.

What is a substitute check?

A substitute check is a special paper copy of the front and back of an original check. The substitute check may be slightly larger than the original check. Substitute checks are specially formatted so they can be processed as if they were original checks. The front of a substitute check should state: "This is a legal copy of your check. You can use it the same way you would use the original check."

The following sample shows what a substitute check looks like.

Front of a substitute check
Front of a substitute check
Back of a substitute check
Back of a substitute check
 

Multiple substitute checks 

Not all copies of a check are substitute checks. For example, pictures of multiple checks printed on a page (also known as an image statement) that is returned to you with your monthly statement are not substitute checks. Online check images and photocopies of original checks are not substitute checks either. You can use image statements and other copies of checks to verify that your financial institution has paid a check.

 

Why do financial institutions create substitute checks?

Some financial institutions find that exchanging electronic images of checks with other financial institutions is faster and more efficient than physically transporting paper checks. In certain circumstances, however, financial institutions may need to use a paper check. To address this need, Check 21 allows a financial institution to create and send a substitute check that is made from an electronic image of the original check.

Can I require my financial institution to return my original check?

No. In general, the law does not require your financial institution to return your original check. Many financial institutions destroy original paper checks. Other financial institutions may store original checks for some period of time and then destroy them. Check 21 ensures that you have the same legal protections when you receive a substitute check from your financial institution as you do when you receive an original check.

What should I do if I receive a substitute check and there is a problem?

Check 21 provides a special process that allows you to claim a refund (also known as an expedited recredit) when you receive a substitute check from a financial institution and you think there is an error because of the substitute check. For example, you may think that you were charged twice for the same check.

You may use the special process to get a refund of the money you lost. The amount of your refund under the special process is limited to the amount of your loss or the amount of the substitute check that you received, whichever is less, plus interest on that amount if your account earns interest. If your loss is more than the amount of the substitute check, you may have the right under other laws to recover additional amounts of money.

If your financial institution finds that your claim is valid, you should receive your refund by the next business day after the financial institution's finding. Unless your financial institution finds that your claim is not valid, you should receive up to $2,500 of your refund (plus interest if your account earns interest) within 10 business days after your financial institution receives your claim. You should receive the rest of your refund (plus interest if your account earns interest) no later than 45 days after your financial institution receives your claim. If your financial institution finds that your claim is not valid, it will send you a notice explaining why.

Your financial institution may reverse the refund (including any interest on the refund) if it can show that the substitute check did not cause an error in your account.

How do I file a claim under the special refund procedure for substitute checks?

If you notice a problem with a substitute check, you should contact your financial institution as soon as possible. In general, to use the special refund procedure for substitute checks, you should contact your financial institution no later than 40 days from the date your financial institution provided the substitute check or from the date of the statement that shows the problem.

In general, you must

  • Describe why you think the charge to your account is incorrect.
  • Describe why you believe the original check or a better version of the substitute check is needed to determine whether the substitute check should have been deducted from your account.
  • Estimate how much money you lost because of the substitute check. (Include any fees you were charged as a result of the substitute check. Also, alert your financial institution to any interest you lost, if your account earns interest.)
  • Provide a copy of the substitute check, or give your financial institution information that will help it identify the substitute check and investigate your claim.

What if I have more questions about substitute checks?

  • Contact your financial institution.
  • Visit the online information on Check 21.
  • Contact your state's consumer protection agency or attorney general's office for information on state laws that apply to checks and substitute checks.

Remember . . .

  • When a financial institution uses substitute checks, your checks may be processed faster. Be sure you have enough money in your account to cover the checks that you write.
  • Always review your account statement to make sure the charges are correct.
  • If you receive something other than a substitute check, be aware of your rights to resolve errors under other state and federal laws.
  • Contact your financial institution right away if you notice an error in your account.

 

Check 21: General FAQs Check 21: Substitute Checks Check 21: Consumer Protection Check 21: Original Checks


 

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