How Come Dave Ramsey Tells People to Use a Debit Card for Everything…But I Can’t Buy a New Big Screen TV With Mine?

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And yes, I do have the money in my account.

(Full disclosure: My credit union did finally explain this to me. But for a long time I was pretty darn frustrated, and I believe it was only because of my special status as an industry insider that I finally got the answer.)

I get that credit unions make money on loans, and I know I could just use my credit card. But as someone who’s been debt free for years – and who worked darn hard to get that way – I know that there are many others like me who would prefer to keep that monkey off their backs. The best credit unions are the ones who help people at all stages of their lives, whether their borrowing days are behind them or they still need a helping hand that isn’t going to gouge them in the process.

For people who’ve gotten in over their heads, avoiding credit cards altogether can be a prudent financial move. Money gurus like Dave Ramsey are always preaching to use a debit card for everything. Except that at my credit union, that meant I couldn’t buy anything that cost more than $1,000, even if I had ten times that in my account.

I started by reaching out as a regular member, asking could that limit be changed. The answer was no, we’re sorry. It wasn’t until I reached out as an industry insider that I heard the reason. Like most members, I had no clue about how debit cards carry a risk to the credit union, if a person doesn’t have funds when the item comes in to post. The credit union had a policy in place that was intended to protect all members, by making sure the organization as an entity doesn’t get derailed by a lost debit card.

The real point of this article (hang around long enough and I will get there) is that as a typical member I didn’t know any of this. It just looked like my credit union wasn’t with the times. I had to see it from the point of view of an insider in order to see the consequences to the credit union in absorbing that risk.

I still wish my credit union was able to take a risk on me, as a long-time member in good standing, but that’s a conversation for another time. But as someone who owns the joint, I’m much more sympathetic to the reality and the reason behind the decision. And as an owner, I can even be a catalyst for an eventual change in the policy that works for everyone.

So I guess we’re back to what I said in my first article. Why do credit unions struggle so much with treating members like the insiders they are? Reach out to me in the comments below or shoot me an email–I’d really like to know!

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  • VP Writing Team/Product Design, CU*Answers

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