Coopera Credit Union, in less than 10 years, has grown to become a financial force in the Cuenca area. From humble beginnings in San Joaquin, a farming town just outside the city, it has grown from 10 employees to almost 500, about 110,000 members, and from that one location to many in Cuenca and neighboring towns.
There are also several Coopera branches in the lowlands of Guayas province, including Guayaquil and other areas nearby.
What makes Coopera different from other credit unions is that it also has several stores that buy produce, meats and food products from member farmers, and then sell to members (and non-members). Learn more about the Coopera markets here.
Coopera's mission is to strengthen the family within the national economy by developing an efficient system of popular finance. Its vision is to be (please forgive my inadequate translation skills!)...
A cooperative that offers to our members confidence and financial solutions, supporting their wellbeing and development, composed of engaged people with values, in constant personal and professional growth; competitive, secure, generating economic profitability, and including the most vulnerable links in the country's chain of productivity.
It's that connection with the farmers and their land that makes Coopera Credit Union an especially stable financial institution in Ecuador.
Back in 1999 and early 2000, Ecuador had a severe financial crisis. The sucre, the national currency, plummeted in value from about 3,000 to a United States dollar in 1995 to over 25,000 to the dollar in early 2000, when it dropped by 17% in one week.
Many of the country's banks closed, permanently. But none of the credit unions closed. This is indicative of the strength of credit unions in Ecuador.
As a credit union and cooperative, you have to be a member to bank there, although you can shop at the stores without being a member.
Coopera offers several types of savings accounts, including a solidarity account, a passbook account (ahorros a la vista), programmed savings, and what they call depósitos a plazo fijo (time deposits, or what are called certificates of deposit—CDs—in the US, and guaranteed investment certificates—GICs—in Canada).
If you're an associate member of the Cuenca Referral Network, you can receive 10.5% annual interest on any CD deposit of at least $1,000 USD, for at least one month. We discuss this high interest CD and the requirements here.
Coopera doesn't offering checking (chequing) accounts at this time. However, if you need to make a large purchase and don't want to carry cash with you, you can purchase a money order (orden de pago) from any teller.
Copoera offers housing loans, which are basically what we'd call mortgages. The rates aren't cheap, but are in line with rates charged throughout Ecuador.
Also available are business credit (the literal translation is "productive credit") and working capital credit.
Finally, you can obtain consumer credit for education expenses, health expenses, travel or miscellaneous uses.
Coopera is part of the Sistema de Pago Interbancario, which allows members to transfer money electronically to or from their Coopera accounts and other Ecuadorian financial institutions. You do that using the credit union's online banking.
You can also wire money to your Coopera account from any financial institution that's part of SWIFT. Coopera's SWIFT code is RCOOECEQ.
If you need more information about wire transfers, you can email the credit union at email@example.com, although you might be better off heading over to the San Joaquin head office, or to the branch across the street from Feria Libre, where Juan, who speaks English, is the manager (Juan grew up in the US, so his English is excellent).
Coopera also offers life insurance, personal accident insurance, medical assistance and maternity assistance.
Part of its life insurance/medical assistance is an insurance plan for medical and dental visits, plus some hospital, prescription drug, and medical specialist coverage. We discuss the medical insurance/dental insurance plan here.
You can also pay your electricity (luz) and telephone bills at Coopera. And you can send and receive MoneyGram International money transfers to/from the US, Spain and Italy.
If you drive, you can pay your mandatory SOAT insurance as well.
If you're looking for an alternative to conventional banking in Ecuador, particularly a safer form of banking, then Coopera Credit Union is what you're looking for. With several savings accounts, insurance, lots of assets and lots of members, Coopera will be around for a long time.
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I just want to thank you both soooo much for creating this web site. I am originally from Cuenca but moved to New York 11 years ago and have not being back since. My husband and I are planning on visiting Cuenca over the Summer and this web site has helped me a lot.
When I came to the US we still had the "sucre," the bus ride cost 1,000 sucres and a pack of trident gum would cost 3,000 sucres. I am very nervous to go back, but thanks to your web site I now know what to expect.
My husband is American and Captivating Cuenca has taught him a lot about what my great city has to offer, things that I had forgotten about myself! :)
Thank You both so much! I cannot wait to visit Cuenca!!