Member Moments: How Affinity Plus Saved Me During Hardship

JD Holmquist of Milaca, Minnesota, has been an Affinity Plus member since 2012. Prior to becoming a member, he went through some financial hardships, which resulted in him filing for bankruptcy.

We had the opportunity to talk with JD and hear his story. We are #affinityplusproud to share some of the ways Affinity Plus had his back and helped get him back to a more financially-stable situation.

In 2012, you went through some financial hardships, even filing for bankruptcy. Tell us about that.
I started college right before the housing crisis and recession occurred in 2007/2008. Going into the job market during a recession was absolutely terrifying. I struggled to get a job in 2011 after my undergrad was completed, which meant it was difficult to find health insurance. Every debt I had was put on a credit card so I could make ends meet. There was a lapse in coverage, and I had an emergency surgery while I was in college. [Payment for the surgery] was tossed between insurance parties and the hospital, and I was told I could work something out with the hospital’s financial team. Fast forward to 2011, and I am sent a bill for upwards $68,000 for emergency, life-saving surgery. Neither the hospital nor the insurance carrier would take any responsibility for their error in coding it, and I had to foot the entire bill. I got to choose between living my life and filing bankruptcy, or trying to get a lender to help me pay off the debt.  

My personal banker at the big bank said, "There is no way we can help you with that. You're on your own unfortunately with this one. But we can help you with a credit line extension!” Rather than offering a meaningful solution, they offered to put me FURTHER in debt with a bigger credit line. I inevitably bit the bullet and filed bankruptcy. It was humiliating. After it was all done, I had claimed my big bank credit card within the bankruptcy (as they pushed higher limits on me month after month, and when ends don't meet, you do what you have to do). When I sat down again to meet with them, my personal banker made me feel lower than low in her office that day.

I walked out with the remainder of my checking account, and that is when I discovered Affinity Plus.

You were with a big bank and they said there wasn’t much they could do to help you out. How did that make you feel?
It made me feel horrible, helpless, and out of hope; there is nothing I can really say to explain that feeling. I was a recent graduate, recent bankruptcy filer, limited job prospects, and no financial institution wanted to help. It felt like the end of my life before I even really got started.

How did you discover or hear about Affinity Plus, and then make the decision to switch from the big bank?
Word of mouth, as well as a few locations that popped up near my parents’ place. I switched [to Affinity Plus] the same week I left the big bank. A lot of things fell into place after leaving the big bank, the stars aligned, and I joined Affinity Plus within a few days.

What was your initial experience like, when you came into Affinity Plus, trying to get help and get your finances squared away?
I had heard wonderful things about Affinity Plus from friends, and the DAY I closed my big bank account, I noticed the Coon Rapids branch after having lunch with a high school friend. I took a breath, stopped in, got an appointment to open an account, and the meeting I had with that Member Advisor sealed it. There was compassion. Understanding. I felt understood for the FIRST TIME in my financial life. I wasn't criticized for mistakes of my past or how I handled the bankruptcy. They understood my perspective, and we went from there. We made a plan for savings and checking, discussed my credit score, things I could do to improve it, and made a biweekly plan for my finances. For the first time, I walked out of a financial services building feeling empowered and confident in my finances. It completely changed my life.

Fast forward to 7 years later – how are things?
My credit is up almost 125 points from 7 years ago, I've consolidated my debts and refinanced with Affinity. I exclusively use Affinity for all my lending needs, and I have a savings account and retirement account! The values flux a bit thanks to my ability to have a retirement account at work (this was planned out and calculated with my Affinity Plus rep in Cambridge), but I am in such a more financially secure place in my life that it is hard at times to comprehend where I would have been had I not stumbled upon Affinity 7 years ago.

How has Affinity Plus helped you?
In more ways than I can count. Beyond stabilizing my finances and helping me navigate life post-bankruptcy, I've always had someone at my back to help me in need. 

There have been a few times Affinity has helped with lending emergencies. Two years ago I lost my service dog, and a few months later my second service dog needed emergency vet care. Instead of panicking about the ability to pay for it, my lending rep told me to drop off my dog at the vet and we would figure out the next steps. That was huge! I felt a tinge of relief during one of the scariest days of my life. She had me apply for a loan, we went over all the options, terms, rates, etc, found a plan that worked for me, and not only did I pick up my dog at the end of the day, I was able to pay the bill off in full. I was sent a sympathy card about my service dog from a few months prior, as well as one wishing my current dog well.  

Not only does Affinity care about how you are financially in the long run, they have your back when things get dark and you have tough decisions to make. They NEVER made me feel bad about refinancing an unsecured loan so I could pay for emergency vet bills or auto repairs, and to this day I pay my loan payments early, and even pay them off ahead of time because of the financial security that Affinity has helped me obtain.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about joining Affinity Plus?Don't fall for what many of the big banks tell you about Credit Unions - they aren't “too small to help.” Affinity's bottom line is their customer's well-being, not the financial bottom line of the bank. It feels great to have less anxiety about money when life happens - Affinity has your back and will do whatever is within their power to make sure you are going to be better off than you were when you picked up the phone.  

What made you join Affinity Plus?
I've been put through the ringer countless times by big, for-profit banks that have little interest in taking care of their customer's most valued needs. Affinity made it VERY clear that they were there to help me. Not help the bottom line, not boost numbers for themselves -- for me.  

What do you love/enjoy most about being a member at Affinity Plus?
Every single interaction with guest representatives is honest, upfront, and handled with care. I never feel judged. I'm not made to feel like I've inconvenienced them. I'm no longer afraid of financial setbacks that COULD happen because I know I have a credit union that will have my back at every single turn.