Banking Alternatives

Lending Circles

What is a lending circle? A lending circle is a zero-interest and zero-fee social loan that helps to establish or improve credit history and score. It can also serve as a savings vehicle for those who are motivated by deadlines or by working with their peers.

How does a lending circle work? A group of people meet and agree to contribute to a fund monthly. Each month a different member receives the money in the fund for his or her use. The lending circle is complete when each participant has accessed the monthly fund. In this way, every member of a lending circle is both a borrower and a lender.

El Centro de la Raza’s Lending Circles are open to anyone 18 years and older. Those interested in participating should:

  • Attend one of the regularly scheduled informational meetings where they can ask questions and learn more about the program.
  • Schedule a one-on-one intake appointment in which they will work with a counselor to decide if lending circles are a good fit for them and to which they will be asked to bring:
    1. A government-issued photo ID such as a driver’s license, passport, or consular ID
    2. Recent proof of income for one month (e.g., pay stubs, profit, and loss statement)
    3. Recent monthly bank statements for all accounts
    4. A voided check
    5. A social security number or ITIN
  • Attend a formation meeting to create a lending circle and determine the monthly contribution amount and the monthly disbursal by group consensus.
  • All participants are strongly encouraged to attend a Bank On-certified eight-hour financial education series.

Lending circles are available in English and Spanish.

For more information send an email to

Saving for Retirement Matters

Washington’s Small Business Retirement Marketplace, operated by the Department of Commerce, is a virtual portal where qualified financial service firms will offer low-cost retirement savings plans to businesses with less than 100 employees, including sole proprietors and self-employed individuals.  Their goal is to increase Washingtonians’ retirement savings by making it easier and less costly for smaller employers to provide retirement savings options to their employees. Learn more>

Save to Win

With Save to Win, every $25 you put into a share certificate at a participating credit union is another chance to win and save. In the end, you’ll at the very least walk away with your savings, plus interest. You could even end up winning $5,000. That’s what Save to Win is all about!  Learn more>

Small Dollar Loans: An Affordable Alternative

BECU, Key Bank and Express Credit Union offer small-dollar loans that will work with you to break the payday lending cycle. Amounts of the loan and conditions vary, so check out the features of each by reviewing the bank or credit union website before deciding which one works for you!