In a Nutshell: As a credit union that originated on an Air Force base, Arkansas Federal Credit Union is well-versed in the military’s team ethos. That meshes perfectly with the credit union mission of people helping people, which Arkansas FCU expresses in many ways. Credit card offerings stress simplicity and serve members from all walks of life, including folks who may need to build or rebuild credit. Teamwork extends to an innovative product for credit score building and dedication to financial education in schools and communities. It’s a winning combination that has earned Arkansas FCU our Editor’s Choice™ Award.
When people work together as a team, there’s nothing they can’t accomplish. That’s the message at Arkansas Federal Credit Union, which unites 150,000+ member-owners behind the idea that teamwork makes the dream work.
Arkansas FCU manifests its commitment to teamwork and community in many ways. It offers a credit card program that strives to reach members at every stage of their financial journeys. It helps members build stronger finances through Credit IQ, an innovative credit-building and tracking feature of its digital banking platform.
It reaches out as an impactful auto, mortgage, and business lender and an in-person financial counseling resource with team members in 20+ branches. It energizes communities through employee giving and volunteerism. And it provides financial education in the communities it serves to help employees, adults, and entrepreneurs take their next steps forward.
It’s a combination that places Arkansas FCU among the elites in the credit union community. EVP and Chief Lending Officer Terry Vick said that the spirit of all for one and one for all started in the 1950s when seven people working at the Little Rock Air Force Base pooled a few dollars.
“They got together and started a credit union to accomplish goals the local banks couldn’t help them with,” Vick said. “We continue to help our members by meeting them where they are.”
After serving as a military-affiliated institution for several generations, the credit union gradually expanded its membership criteria to anyone living in Arkansas. Employees and members of more than 700 companies and organizations are also eligible.
Reaching out and helping more members puts teamwork at the forefront and strengthens Arkansas. And it has earned Arkansas FCU our Editor’s Choice™ Award.
Card Products Help Members Reach Their Goals
In today’s high-interest rate lending environment, Vick wants people to know that Arkansas FCU leverages its lean operations and fiduciary responsibility to members so it can offer some of the best credit card deals you’ll find.
“We have a great card offering out there,” he said. “We keep it relatively simple and have something for everyone.”
The leading card for those interested in credit savings is the Platinum Classic Mastercard, a low-rate card which primarily serves members who may want to maintain a balance and use a card for everyday transactions.
The Platinum Classic Mastercard carries no annual fees and presents no complications. It’s just a straightforward credit card that does what it says it does.
“We live in a digital world, and you really can’t go anywhere without a credit card,” Vick said. “Our members know they’re not going to have anybody taking advantage of them.”
Continuing the pattern of straightforwardness is Arkansas FCU’s flagship World Mastercard, a 2% cash back card that doesn’t complicate rewards with points and reimbursements. Instead, the card simply offers the same rewards on all purchases, with no annual or over-limit fees.
“As a straight 2% cash back Mastercard, I think it’s one of the strongest in the nation,” Vick said.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Platinum Secure Mastercard, a credit builder card that has captured more of Vick’s attention as he has studied usage patterns. The card offers credit based on a secured loan deposit. What’s interesting to Vick is that more than 90% of credit builder card accounts are active, which tells him the card fills a necessary niche.
“I feel like we’re providing members with an opportunity to build or rebuild their credit to where, hopefully within a year or two, they’ll qualify for one of our more mainstream cards,” he said. “This is something many of our members really need.”
Credit IQ Encourages Positive Financial Behaviors
Although Arkansas FCU maintains its commitment to physical branches and is expanding to regions where it has traditionally lacked a physical presence, it also recognizes digital transformation’s vital role in changing consumer banking habits.
It offers a state-of-the-art digital banking app for personal and business accounts. Members can view transactions and balances, transfer funds, deposit checks remotely, pay bills, control their account access, and securely send and receive money through the Zelle® payment service.
The app also reaches out to the credit union’s credit-challenged cohort — and members in general — through Credit IQ, an innovative feature that allows members to receive notifications regarding changes in their credit scores. This helps them monitor improvement in their credit standing without impacting their scores.
It taps into member accounts to offer tips and tricks for building a better score by comparing the user’s documented spending habits against standards the major credit bureaus use to assess consumer creditworthiness.
CreditIQ also offers a score simulator that allows members to experiment with credit and spending scenarios and weigh the relative impact of various strategies.
For example, members can learn how paying down debt can have positive consequences on their score and the potential adverse effects of opening additional credit lines.
“It’s a great tool for members trying to improve their credit and figure out the best way forward,” Vick said.
Another way Credit IQ benefits users is by being proactive. The feature compares the user’s credit report against Arkansas FCU’s product offerings and suggests more constructive strategies for spending, saving, and building credit.
“I really like that tool,” Vick said. “It’s something fairly new that we started offering within the last couple of years, and we’re hoping to enroll more members so they can track their scores and get more educated.
Fueling Growth Through Business and Education
Unlike many credit unions, Arkansas FCU makes a concerted effort to reach the business community with lending products. As it expanded its charter and grew its membership, it found that many incoming members were small business owners the institution couldn’t help.
Instead of referring those potential business clients to a for-profit banking institution down the street, the credit union decided to take matters into its own hands. It now offers a competitive Business Platinum Mastercard among its financial services for businesses.
“That way, we don’t have all of our eggs in one basket, and we’re serving more members,” Vick said.
Back on the consumer side, the credit union is Arkansas’s largest auto lender, with an auto loan portfolio exceeding $1 billion. It also maintains a robust mortgage business with steady purchase volume — a relative rarity in today’s moribund housing market nationwide.
“That’s helped us gain new members and capture our existing members when they go out there shopping,” Vick said.
Meanwhile, Arkansas FCU reaches out with a team approach to service in the communities it serves across the state. Since 1998, the credit union and its employees have donated more than $2 million to local and national charities. Employees volunteered 265.59 hours of community service in 2022. Each year, the credit union awards a $5,000 scholarship to a student planning to attend an accredited institution or trade school.
From an education perspective, Arkansas FCU stays true to its military origins and leverages its branch presence to make team members available as financial advisors and counselors. The team is ready to perform a needs assessment and chart to show where customers are and where they want to go financially.
“People need to know how to keep track of their funds and what it takes to purchase a vehicle or obtain a credit card,” Vick said. “We really try to make a difference.”