LEHIGH VALLEY, Pa. | First Commonwealth Federal Credit Union, the Lehigh Valley’s largest credit union and leader in inclusive banking, announced their recent national account certification in support of the Bank On Allentown Coalition.
With a mission of “empowering the pursuit of financial happiness,” First Commonwealth FCU states it is committed to empowering positive change and serving the evolving needs of individuals, families and businesses throughout the diverse Lehigh Valley community.
Their Fresh Start Checking Account has earned National Bank On Certification, which organization officials say is bringing a new level of inclusivity, access and choice to banking and financial education for unbanked, underbanked and underserved consumers in the Lehigh Valley.
First Commonwealth FCU says it has been working with the City of Allentown and United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley for nearly three years to advance inclusivity and access to banking by establishing the Bank On Allentown Coalition, and gaining support of other key community partners.
First Commonwealth FCU was the first Lehigh Valley financial institution to commit support to this initiative, officials stated. Bank On Allentown, which officially launched last fall, joins 85 Bank On coalitions across the country, 1 of 4 in Pennsylvania.
“We believe all individuals should have equal access to affordable banking, the ability to bank, save and borrow with dignity and respect and inclusive access to financial education tools and resources to have a successful relationship with money. Through our early involvement with Bank On Allentown, we learned that access to financial services for the underbanked in the Lehigh Valley community was not being met and we immediately took action,” said James Gagliano, Chief Experience Office for First Commonwealth.
Through its partnership, First Commonwealth says it will work to expand inclusive access to appropriate financial products and services to unbanked and underbanked residents outside of the mainstream financial system.
According to the CFE, close to 5% of U.S. households are “unbanked,” without a checking or savings account, and almost 11% of U.S. households are underbanked, meaning they still use some fringe financial services.
Locally, 37% of households in Allentown are unbanked or underbanked, data shows.
“Collectively, our goal is to bridge the gaps here in our community, building financial stability and connecting individuals with a trusted financial partner and inclusive and affordable banking products,” added Gagliano.
Bank On Allentown says it is supported by the national nonprofit Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund’s (CFE Fund’s) national Bank On initiative, which works to ensure that everyone has access to safe and affordable bank and credit union accounts.
Partnering financial institutions must submit their product's terms and conditions to the CFE Fund, officials say, which uses an independent third-party evaluator to verify the product meets the requirements.
The requirements, or "standards", include features designed specifically to meet the needs of the target demographic, such as free and unrestricted access to in-person and digital account access, as well as minimal fees including the inability to overdraw on the account.
In addition to being a founding partner in Bank On Allentown, First Commonwealth FCU says it continues lead in inclusive banking as the first credit union in the Lehigh Valley to proudly accept the Matrícula Consular de Mexico card as a form of acceptable identification to open accounts.
“Being a not-for-profit financial cooperative empowers us to do the right thing [...] The acceptance of the Matrícula card and establishment of Allentown’s Bank On Coalition will not only make affordable financial services more available and accessible than ever before, but will also open up more opportunities for inclusive banking within our communities,” added Gagliano.
The nationally certified First Commonwealth FCU Fresh Start Checking account can be opened online from the convenience of home or at any of First Commonwealth’s 11 locations throughout the Greater Lehigh Valley, officials stated.
First Commonwealth FCU also offers workplace banking for employers of any size throughout the Greater Lehigh Valley through their Work First by First Commonwealth FCU Employer Partner program.