Patelco Credit Union has been around since 1936. Back then, it had just $500 in assets. 

Now, it’s the 26th largest credit union in the nation, with $7 billion in assets and over 328,000 members. It currently has 38 locations throughout Northern California. 

“We’re very different, because our goal is to help our community, and to empower our members to be successful, and enhance their financial wellbeing,” said Alma Tolentino, the Branch Manager at the Milpitas location. 

A full-service not-for-profit financial institution, Patelco puts a great deal of focus into supporting the community, whether it’s through financial literacy workshops or supporting other organizations in promoting healthy nutrition, affordable housing, and children’s health. 

Across all Patelco locations, many staff members carve out time to volunteer at community events and help to raise money for big causes. 

Back in December 2018, Patelco team members partnered with the Northern Valley Catholic Social Service Inc. in Chico to donate 1,000 backpacks to those affected by the Camp Fire; each contained a blanket, a power pack, a $50 Target gift card, and a motivational personal note from a Patelco team member. Volunteers from Patelco helped over 50 families at the Chico Salvation Army Distribution Center shop for free household, personal, and food supplies at the location.  

In 2017, in light of the fires throughout Sonoma and Napa, Patelco raised over $234,000 to distribute to local charities. Team members from the credit union even volunteered in the community, distributing food and gifting care packages. 

Another thing that Patelco is passionate about is providing free financial education courses in places like high schools, community colleges, libraries, adult education centers, and housing centers. Through these courses, they support community members in learning how to budget, setting goals, combating emotional spending, and understanding basic financial literacy. 

“As far as the branches’ events, like my branch, one of my responsibilities is to go out there and plant the seeds to where we can partner. So that the community becomes aware of Patelco and what we can do,” said Tolentino. “That involves taking advantage of our high-paying money market savings account that pays 3 percent. Others don’t pay that much. That’s our way of encouraging youth and small savers to take advantage, and for them to come and be part of Patelco.” 

In terms of accounts, Patelco offers checking and savings. For checking, there are 4 different types: free checking, plus checking, youth checking, and interest checking. 

“The right checking account helps build your finances on a strong foundation and of course we can tailor it to your unique needs,” said Tolentino. 

Youth checking is for teens ages 13-17, and there are no monthly or low balance fees. Their first order of checks is free. 

Plus checking is unique in that it offers benefits like 24/7 roadside assistance, cell phone protection, discounts from different stores, credit monitoring, and identity theft protection. A fee of $6.95 is associated with this kind of account. 

Under savings accounts, Patelco offers certificates and IRAs; there’s also the opportunity to open a money market savings account, as well as a health savings account, which offers tax advantage savings for people who have high deductibles. 

In discussing what makes a credit union different from a bank, Tolentino spoke of how banks are for-profit institutions owned by stockholders, while credit unions are not-for-profit. 

“We are owned by our members and we give back in the form of dividends. So that means higher dividends on our savings accounts, and lower rates on loans that we offer,” said Tolentino. “A bank is all about goals and numbers, and not very customer friendly. They don’t care about the fees being charged to you. When you need help, they refer you to an 800 number or a back office. With a credit union, it’s personable…You can tell the difference.”

A big part of what drives Tolentino as Branch Manager is her passion to really engage with the community and make an impact on someone else’s financial health and life, either by lowering their interest rates or payments, inspiring them to rebuild their credit, or helping them to save by taking advantage of Patelco’s money market savings account. 

The most valuable financial advice that Tolentino wanted to leave the Milpitas community with? 

Save as much as you can. 

She’s a firm believer in spending on items that you need, and taking advantage of high-paying savings accounts. “Compare what other financial institutions have out there,” said Tolentino. “And go to an institution where they really care about your financial health and can help towards your financial well-being.” 

Patelco has been a valued partner of The Milpitas Beat since the launch of our print edition. 

Patelco Credit Union 

601 E Calaveras Blvd 

Milpitas, CA 95035

http://www.patelco.org

Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro works as a journalist and media consultant in the Bay Area. She has written for both the Tri-City Voice and the Mercury News, and is the founder of Chi Media Company, which works with nonprofit organizations to elevate their marketing and communication platforms. Rhoda is also an author; her first book will be published by Llewellyn Worldwide in mid-2019. Her YouTube channel, which features practices in yoga, meditation, and women’s empowerment, has amassed thousands of subscribers. Rhoda is The Milpitas Beat’s founder.

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