Solving the Missionary Banking Challenge

(Originally published as an article within ECCU’s former e-publication, Ministry Banking Today.)

A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with my sister. Mid-conversation she interrupted me with, "Oh, no. The bank is closed. How am I going to buy groceries?" For most, a closed bank means a minor inconvenience. But for her, a missionary in the Dominican Republic, it was a major hassle. She said the bank had closed early for some unexplained reason and she would have to try again the next day, which meant she would have to walk another three miles in an attempt to get her cash.

Challenges like this are common for missionaries serving overseas. The good news is that, while these roadblocks are unavoidable, there are ways around them. And it begins by finding a banking partner who understands your ministry's unique needs.

Begin your search for a financial institution by identifying your obstacles. Do your missionaries lack typical banking conveniences like ATMs and internet access? Do they have credit needs but no credit history? Whatever the obstacles, look for a banking partner that will work with you to make banking one less thing to worry about. A financial institution that specifically serves missionaries should demonstrate characteristics such as these:

Caution. Whether your financial partner has any religious affiliation or not, it should understand that many missionaries serve in areas requiring extreme caution when referencing Christianity. You should be confident that all correspondence coming from their bank has been "sanitized" to prevent putting your missionaries at risk.

Partnership. Look for an organization that will serve both the agency and the missionary. When a financial institution can partner with sending agencies, missionaries enjoy safer, more efficient service. Often the bank will be able to work directly with the agency to provide check orders or financial correspondence to ensure it reaches the missionary safely.

Creativity. When banking barriers abound, nothing overcomes them like creative thinking. Your financial institution should anticipate obstacles when serving international missionaries and creatively work around them. One missionary in Togo was having trouble receiving her new debit card due to a corrupt mail system. Her banking partner solved the problem by having an employee hand deliver a new card while attending a conference in the area. Whether it's helping to minimize fees or working with the Federal Reserve Bank to provide you with new bills, creative solutions should be a regular part of your banking package.

For more tips on how to make banking easier on your missionaries overseas, contact an ECCU Member Services representative at 800.634.3228, option 2, or by e-mail at memberservice@eccu.org.

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