By Staff, Baptist Message
ALEXANDRIA – Finances can be stretched thin at this time in the United States economy. BEL Credit Union may be able to help.
BEL FCU – short for Baptist Employees of Louisiana Federal Credit Union, the only Baptist faith-based credit union in Louisiana – is positioning itself to over time be available to every member of every Baptist church and entity in Louisiana that affiliates with the Louisiana Baptist Convention. See www.belfcu.com.
For the present, membership is limited to full-time or part-time employees and their immediate families of LBC and the Children’s Home, Foundation, College and Baptist Message, plus New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
In addition, members of Baptist Temple Alexandria, First Chataignier, Mt. Hope Oakdale, Peniel Calcasieu, Faith Alexandria, Trinity Oakdale and Aimwell Zwolle can be members. This is because their churches have requested to be added to the credit union’s field of membership, and their request has been approved by the National Credit Union Administration, which oversees the membership of credit unions across the nation.
A telephone call to Paul Allbritton, manager of the BEL Credit Union – 318.449.4357 – is all that is needed to start the no-cost process for other churches to make it possible for their members to be credit union members.
“We’re here to help Louisiana Baptists with their finances,” Allbritton said. “Rates [for loans] are as low as they’ve been for many years. This is a good time for people to refinance their vehicle, personal or credit card debt in the same way they refinance their home mortgage when the rates are in their favor.”
Many people are paying 12 to 15 percent interest on credit card debt, and almost that much on vehicle loans, the credit union manager said.
“Even if they don’t have perfect credit, we still may be able to help, and if there is a good credit history, we can bring that down to as low as 3 percent when a vehicle can be used as collateral,” Allbritton said. “We cut one woman’s interest rate in half for her car loan. Collateral allows for bigger loans and better rates.”
Rates are determined by a person’s credit score. For BEL CU, a score of 720 or more is considered an “A+” rating, which qualifies for the lowest rates. Examples: a 3-year car note would garner a 3 percent interest rate for a person with a 720 or higher credit score. That same note would be 9 percent for a person with a score below 620. An unsecured 3-year personal note would be 7 percent for a person with a 720 or higher credit score, and 12 percent for a person with a score below 620.
Don’t know your credit score? Got to annualcredit report.com, which provides free of charge, a copy of the credit report, which lists creditors and how they were paid.
“They won’t give you a credit score, but by looking at what they do give you, in most cases I can make an educated guess as to your score,” Allbrittion said. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years. I see the stress a bad financial situation can put on a family. … God wants us to do everything we can to help people grow in their faith, and part of that is the proper stewardship of a family’s finances. … We want to help our members gain control over their personal finances so they can be in a position where they can help others.”
BEL FCU lends up to 100 percent of the average of clean trade-in and clean retail value of vehicles, as noted on nada guides.com. For new vehicles, BEL lends up to the MSRP.
“We look at the [BEL] Credit Union as a ministry,” Allbritton said. “I’m able to restructure an individual’s financial situation – such as refinance a vehicle to pay off medical bills, and possibly get them a lower interest rate. … Our focus is, what can we do to benefit our members, to help them reach their financial goals? We’re not bottom-line oriented.”
BEL does earn money from the interest people pay on their loans. That money is parceled in three ways: operating expenses, interest paid to members on their savings accounts, and ‘capital reserves’ to provide for future expansion.
The credit union offers savings accounts, checking accounts, loans and many other financial options. BEL CU also accepts Direct Deposit and Payroll Deductions.
“By restructuring loans at lower interest rates, people can save hundreds of dollars,” Allbritton said.