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Ask Sid

Can I Join a Credit Union If I'm Retired?

Q. I want to join a credit union to get a lower-rate credit card, but I'm retired. What are my options?

A. Traditionally, credit unions were open only to people working for certain employers or belonging to groups such as labor unions. But many credit unions have since adopted a less restrictive "field of membership" — meaning you can often join based on where you live; your place of worship, civic group or past school affiliations; or by having an eligible family member.

A good first step to find a CU: Contact your state's credit union league or call the Credit Union National Association at 1-800-358-5710.

Also worth checking is the National Credit Union Association, a government agency that oversees federally insured CUs, and findacreditunion.com, a collaboration of state leagues and the NCUA.

Along with lower-cost loans and higher returns on CDs, credit unions typically issue "no-frills" credit cards with interest rates up to 4 percentage points below those offered by banks, and usually without annual fees.

Of course, credit unions can be a pain to get to — they're not on every corner. But in sum, many people prefer them to banks.

Sid Kirchheimer writes about health and consumer issues.

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