By Jen Smith and Honorine Uwishema

When relocating from a different country to the United States, there are so many new things to discover and get used to – where things are located, a new language, cultural differences, and even learning a new banking system. When it comes to banking, the names, types, and functions of accounts can be very different than what may be familiar to you. If you find this overwhelming and confusing, you’re not alone. In this article, we’d like to remove any worries you might have and make finding a credit union or bank a little less intimidating and more enjoyable.

Credit unions and banks are financial institutions that are committed to gaining their members’ trust, protecting their money, and ensuring a positive experience. Your goal is to find a place that fits your lifestyle needs and one that will truly care about your financial well-being. It’s important you clearly understand what’s happening with your money and that you work with people who make you feel comfortable and who inspire trust.

Even though financial institutions offer similar products and services, it’s a good idea to research ones that align with your needs and values. When you join a credit union or bank, you are beginning a relationship. You want to establish a connection that grows stronger over time.
Make a list of what is important to you in a banking relationship and browse websites, call, or stop by to ask questions. You can also solicit feedback from family and friends. Ask them to share experiences at their credit union or bank – both good and bad. Important questions to ask, as a New Mainer, might be whether or not they offer translation services or have representatives who speak multiple languages. Some financial institutions have special products and programs designed to assist with housing, citizenship, and credit building – a few areas that may be of greater need to immigrants just starting their lives in the U.S.

When you are ready to begin a relationship with a financial institution, you’ll need to open an account. Typically, this is done with a minimal deposit amount. Once you’ve opened an account, you’ll receive a debit card, allowing you access to your money using an ATM or by making card payments at a store or website.

Representatives are there to help you. They’ll find financial products and services for your current and future needs. Every representative is highly skilled, knowledgeable, and looking forward to helping you. Once they get to know you and your goals, they can help you build credit or buy your first car or home. They will advise you on improving your overall financial picture.

The longer you are a member of the institution, the more they will know you and be able to recognize creative ways to help. As the relationship grows, they may be able to lend more money, helping you with larger purchases and needs in the future. A credit union or bank can help you achieve your personal goals, sometimes even sooner than you think!

Jen Smith is Senior Branch Manager and Honorine Uwishema is a Branch Supervisor at cPort Credit Union’s Forest Avenue location in Portland, Maine. Together they represent over 18 years of experience in the financial services sector. For financial questions Call 1-800-464-0253.