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April 10, 2002

Community Development Credit Unions Introduce Affordable International Wiring Services
    by Calvert Foundation

Several Community Development Credit Unions (CDCUs) have started to provide services that allow working immigrants affordable ways to send funds "back home".

SocialFunds.com -- Working immigrants in the United States, especially those from Central and South America, often send portions of their income back to their native countries to help support friends and relatives. Several Community Development Credit Unions (CDCUs) have started to provide services that allow their members affordable ways to send funds "back home".

For low-income families, this new wiring service provided by their credit unions translates into tremendous personal savings that help provide their families with basic necessities. One organization that is providing this new service to their clients is the Santa Cruz Community Credit Union (SCCCU). To better meet its clients' needs, it recently introduced a new affordable and reliable wiring service to Mexico. This service allows SCCCU's clientele in California to transfer small amounts of money to their families in over 7500 locations in Mexico. SCCCU uses the World Council of Credit Unions' new IRnet (International Remittance Network) program.

Members of the SCCCU (and the 135 other credit unions that use IRnet) can transfer up to $1000 for only $10 including a three-minute phone call to the recipient notifying them of the transfer. In addition, the service does not charge the recipient any fee for accepting the transfer, and they are able to maintain competitive exchange rates. Many popular wiring service providers charge up to five times more than this program to transfer money internationally. This new service can often save families $25 per wire. This saving allows the credit union's members families back in Mexico to purchase essential food, clothing and education for their children. The impact of this product also benefits the senders who already have a relatively low-income.

Linda Ramos of Los Angeles, California, recently began sending money to relatives in Jalisco, Mexico using IRnet. "Normally when we sent $200, it cost us $10 and my family only got 1,600 pesos. Today it costs us only $10 and my family gets 1,810 pesos. That's a savings of $25 for the family," she said. "I'm excited about this new service from my credit union. We've had to go somewhere besides the credit union to do this," continued Ramos. "The cost is right, I have confidence in my credit union and we get a free three minute phone call to tell my sister-in-law that the money is coming."

According to the World Council of Credit Unions, international money transfers equate to 12% of El Salvador Gross Domestic Product, while between five and seven billion dollars cross the border into Mexico each year.

Another credit union using the IRnet is the Latino Community Credit Union (LCCU) in Durham, NC. With the support of the Self-Help Credit Union, the Latino Community Credit Union was opened in order to assist the growing number of individuals in the area facing cultural and language barriers. Because of these disadvantages, Latinos "become victims of theft or fraud, pay too much for check-cashing and other services," said Ivan Parra, Executive Director of El Centro Hispano, a nonprofit that will operate the credit union. By providing wire-transfers with much lower fees than many of the predatory businesses that target low-income populations, LCCU is making sure that its clients are no longer victimized. Since opening in June of 2000, the Latino Community Credit Union has grown to 3000 members and has recently opened up a branch in Charlotte, NC.

This wiring service is just one example of how CDCUs can help people in economically disadvantaged communities build wealth and achieve their personal goals.

Many individual and institutional community investors across the country are supporting CDCUs. For example, Calvert Social Investment Foundation invests $1.4 million in over 15 Community Development Credit Unions.

Calvert Foundation

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