TCT Federal Credit Union – Ballston Spa, New York

June 22, 2023
TCT Federal Credit Union - Ballston Spa, New York

TCT Federal Credit Union

banking with heart


A cut above the rest, TCT Federal Credit Union offers financial solutions that fit the bill

With  four branches and more than 55,000 surcharge-free ATMs worldwide through the Allpoint network, TCT Federal Credit Union is an institution focused on its members, new high-tech services, and its community.

TCT FCU was established in 1959 by a group of teachers and school staff working at schools in three different counties within heavily rural areas of the region. Originally, TCT was an acronym for Tri-County Teachers. At the time, the region was populated with many financial institutions that did not make it easy for teachers to get loans. From those humble beginnings, TCT now serves more than 180 member groups and over 14,000 members.

Membership is impacted by the fact that TCT is a select employer group (SEG) focused institution. That means members are part of an employer that has agreed to allow TCT to provide financial services and education as a benefit to its employees. While it is not open to any consumer, the credit union continues to grow its SEG base, giving it access to thousands of new potential members each year.

Individuals can join as members, provided they fit at least one of the following criteria:

  • An immediate family member of a current TCT member (or someone who is eligible for TCT membership, even if they are not a TCT member).
  • An employee at one of TCT’s member groups
  • A student or immediate family member of a student at one of the following schools: Cambridge Central School, Ballston Spa Central School, Lake George Central School, Stillwater Central School, SUNY Adirondack

Given its history and location, TCT FCU retains a large base of educators, professionals working for county, and local governmental entities, and a growing group of small business owners and entrepreneurs. A percentage of members are also first responders, working for local police, fire departments, and other public safety entities.

Hudson Headwaters Health Network, a nonprofit and Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), is one of the credit union’s largest member groups in the healthcare sector. That is a sector that the credit union hopes to grow in the coming years.


New services are added

While the credit union provides a similar range of products and services as other financial institutions, there are some differences.

One is its Peace of Mind Checking account, where TCT FCU executives took a proactive approach to reduce fees and increase convenience for members. For a nominal cost of $5 monthly, TCT offers ID and phone theft monitoring services along with comprehensive overdraft protection. This service has saved members considerable money in overdraft fees while supporting important monitor services for the cost of a cup of premium coffee.

TCT Federal Credit Union - Ballston Spa, New York

Charles Folensbee, Chief Operating Officer

Additionally, TCT recognizes the increased online presence that many members demand. E-signatures are now possible for loan contracts, expanding convenience for members who prefer to conduct business in their personal time. Says Chief Operating Officer Charles Folensbee, “that convenience and having various options to conduct business goes a long way toward (helping improve customer service).”

The COVID pandemic sped up the process of providing members with more convenient online services that go beyond business transactions, as TCT made important investments to meet member demand, Folensbee says.

“There’s a mix of members we have, from those who may not have high-speed Internet access and who come to our (branches) to some of our suburban members who use our online technology,” he says.

TCT’s Rapid Refi program has achieved “phenomenal” success, Folensbee says. It has helped members simplify the often-overwhelming mortgage process. It allows members to reduce their monthly payments, lock in a lower interest rate, switch from an adjustable rate to a fixed rate for more stability or vice versa, and realize the advantages of an adjustable rate.

One of the many benefits is that members who took out a mortgage through the credit union and held it for at least three years would have their closing costs paid by TCT.


Dealing with the labor shortage and educating members

TCT Federal Credit Union - Ballston Spa, New York

Curt Cecala, CEO

TCT CEO Curt Cecala says that it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how this happened, but the pandemic changed how the U.S. collectively worked – perhaps forever.

Specifically, he feels that it has shrunk the labor pool, with many Baby Boomers and even Generation Xers deciding to retire, in some cases years earlier than previously anticipated. Other Americans decided to focus more on a career with a clearer work/life balance. That was possible as consumers increased their personal savings rates and investments rose.

While that is starting to change, the labor market remains tight, Cecala says. “It has been difficult for us to hire new professionals,” he adds. “People have been able to move around more and demand higher salaries because the demand has been so high.”

The worker shortage issue could change if unemployment and consumers see more of their savings erode. Cecala says there are signs that consumer spending has dipped in recent months and that some members are forced to make difficult spending decisions for their own households.

As a result, one of the main goals of the credit union is to help both teens and adults understand key financial literacy concepts. TCT partners with Banzai, a company that offers free online financial literacy courses for students, using some of its tools while in the classroom.

TCT Federal Credit Union - Ballston Spa, New York

Jeannie Dickinson, Community Relations Manager

TCT Community Relations Manager Jeannie Dickinson works with her TCT colleague Morgan Keith to conduct educational classes and training sessions, which often include Banzai curriculum, in middle and high schools in the region, where they talk about such topics as buying a car.

Many teenagers don’t understand all the costs that go into a vehicle purchase from insurance and gas to registration tags, and why vehicles may not be as affordable as they think without some prior planning.

Says Dickinson, “Whatever we can do to visit and educate schools and our employer groups is important.

Such topics as developing good budgeting habits can provide the support households require to remain financially stable. TCT partners with debt counseling firm GreenPath, to provide one-on-one counseling and other free consulting services for members who need to address debt challenges.


Community support is a constant

TCT FCU is heavily involved in its local communities, providing funding, resources, and volunteers for several charitable organizations.


TCT FCU has offered college-bound high school seniors the opportunity to compete for statewide college scholarships through the New York Credit Union Association’s College Scholarship Program for a number of years. Scholarships may be used at a two- or four-year accredited educational institution, vocational or trade school.

In 2022, the New York Credit Union Association awarded $33,750 in college scholarships, ranging from $500 to $1,500, to 45 students. TCT awarded $9,000 in college scholarships to 10 high school seniors and has started to award scholarships to students attending trade schools as well.

Teacher of the Week

Teacher of the Week is a weekly awards program sponsored by TCT FCU and Adirondack Broadcasting. It allows the two organizations to honor local school employees for their outstanding efforts. One Teacher of the Week recipient is selected each week and announced on air.

Teachers who are recognized get various gift cards and free services like restaurants, a hair salon, a winery, and other recognition. All teachers are featured on TCT’s website and social media.

Other efforts to support local schools and teachers include food pantry donations for low-income students and their families and gathering 400 backpacks filled with supplies and freebies for local teachers, says Dickinson.

“We want to make sure we provide well-rounded support for our members, teachers, and others who play an important role in our community,” Dickinson says.

Another financial topic that TCT regularly educates about is the cost and process of college applications. It has hosted training sessions on how parents of high school seniors planning to attend college should fill out the FAFSA online application that can help identify student aid opportunities.

“We’re here to address member needs so they are more prepared for their (financial) future,” Dickinson says.

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TCT Federal Credit Union

What: A credit union with deep community ties and flexible financial options

Where: Ballston Spa, New York



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