Excerpt from mailing list discussion on 12/14/2017

There are no ATM fees at any credit union in Maine, and there are no monthly fees on the accounts, except the $25 to “join” the credit union. This fee is returned when you close your account. It shows up on your savings balance, but there is also an “available balance” which excludes the $25. There are still fees for overdrafts, of course, but they tend to be less than regular banks.

Some credit unions offer free overdraft protection (meaning they will move money from your savings to your checking) and I also have essentially a standing pre-approved loan on my account so I can use up to $1500 by just an on-line transfer. The balance of the “loan” then requires at least a minimum monthly payment, but the interest is much lower than a credit card, and is calculated by the day, so you can pay extra or pay it off whenever you want. I use this as a bridge for larger or unexpected expenses – new glasses, car repairs, etc.

I suggest you go in with your mentee to talk to someone at the CU/bank and learn whether they have these programs. You can also ask about how to build credit. Once you are a CU member, it is generally easier to get lower interest loans as well, looking ahead to buying a car or eventually having a mortgage.

Depending on how familiar your mentee is with the US banking system, you may also want to discuss how to write checks, use a debit card, use online banking, and especially how to track what money is left in the account when checks and debits haven’t posted yet, etc. When you are just scraping by, incurring an overdraft charge is devastating, and should be avoided at all costs.

It is also a good opportunity to discuss credit cards and provide some examples of how much interest you will pay on various balances. When I was teaching English classes in Lewiston, I discovered most of my students had no idea about this stuff.

Credit Building

Secured Credit Cards
To help establish and build credit, people can apply for a secured credit card. NOTE: The link is just an example, meaning we’re not suggesting you use CitiBank, as most/all credit companies will issue secured credit cards.

Critical Needs Fund

The Steering Committee of Welcoming the Stranger, with the generous support of Temple Beth El (TBE), has established a separate, segregated project fund at TBE to allow tax-deductible donations to be made by individuals and foundations who would like to support our work. For now, we have decided to use currently available funds to meet “critical” mentee needs that cannot otherwise be met by existing funding sources. We have established guidelines for making up to $100 stipends available to your mentees, which can increase to up to $200 if there are sufficient monies available in the Fund, and we encourage you to seek a stipend if and when the need arises. Requests will be considered on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Fill out this funds request form and see the Guidelines for Disbursements form for more information.

We also urge you to tell your friends, family, and colleagues about this newly created fund and its tax-deductible status. Apart from the very real needs it helps meet, contributing to it can be an effective way for those unable to serve as mentors to nonetheless support the work of Welcoming the Stranger. The Guidelines for Donation Form provides more information. And thank you!

For more information reach out to us on our contact page.


Community Financial Literacy
In addition to their counseling, they have programs to help people get first/last/security deposits for rentals and scholarships for schoo.
Mission: CFL empowers, through education and counseling, members of refugee and immigrant communities to invest in themselves to build financial stability, careers, businesses and wealth.
Vision: That all of Maine’s refugees, immigrants, and their families, and communities reach financial stability and improve their quality of life.