KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Servicemembers with less-than-stellar credit and in financial crisis now have an alternative to dealing with off-base loan companies that charge hefty interest rates.

With no credit check required, servicemembers can receive a loan of up to $1,000 through Service Credit Union’s military community emergency lending program.

Under the program, which began April 1, credit union members only need a referral from a community official, such as a commander or chaplain, to become eligible.

If you already have visions of getting the money and blowing it on the latest iPod or on a summer trip around the Greek Isles, think again. The loan money is actually paid to creditors to cover the bills of those who have achieved the financial equivalent of painting themselves into a corner.

“It’s designed to help the people who need help,” said Richard Tolle, senior vice president of overseas operations for Service Credit Union.

The emergency loan repayment schedule is 12 months at 9.9 percent interest.

Community Bank does not offer a similar loan, but it does have overdraft protection attached to its checking accounts. A limit of $500 is available with overdraft protection and associated interest is added to the overdraft amount, said a Community Bank representative who was referring to company literature.

During his years as a financial counselor, Bill Triplett, with the Family Support Center at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, has seen servicemembers with nowhere left to go opt to get loans from off-base lenders. Those off-base outposts can charge interest rates of anywhere between 25 percent and 38.5 percent, he said.

Service Credit Union’s program offers an alternative.

“Now, they do have a place to go instead of going off base or going out on the Internet,” Triplett said.

“This program is an alternative that’s straightforward, understandable and from a reputable organization. And that’s a good thing.”

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