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 History of SAFE

    Notable Moments in SAFE History


  • Helping Members Improve Their Financial Well-Being®
  • Providing Excellent Service 
  • Ensuring a Financially-Sound Credit Union


For more than 70 years, SAFE Credit Union has contributed to the well-being of the community it serves. SAFE has delivered on the credit union credo “people helping people” through both offering the best financial resources and contributing to worthy organizations in Greater Sacramento. SAFE has a long and proud history of providing affordable products, convenient services, technological innovations, and exceptional member service.

The credit union was founded in 1940 in North Highlands, California, under the original charter name of Sacramento Air Depot (S.A.D.) Federal Credit Union. This unfortunate acronym changed in 1953 when S.A.D. was renamed Sacramento Air Force Employees Federal Credit Union. By 1959, the Board shortened the name to S.A.F.E. Federal Credit Union. And today, it's simply called SAFE.

In 1936, Congress authorized construction of Sacramento Air Depot for the production and repair of aircraft in Sacramento, California. The employees of the Sacramento Air Depot, seeking a place to save and borrow money at reasonable interest rates, organized to form a credit union in 1940. Under the guidance of Lance Barden of the California Credit Union League, a group of employees applied for a federal charter. The group was comprised of Oscar H. Nelson, Arthur C. Peterson, Cash C. Stall, Thomas G. Connelly, and Leo G. Flint. On July 18, 1940, the group received federal charter number 4014 and began operations on August 12, 1940.

By the end of 1940, the credit union had 275 members and assets of $7,000. In those days, the unsecured loan limit was $50 and share holdings were limited to $200 per member-owner.

The credit union began operation about one year before Pearl Harbor and our country's entrance into World War II. By 1944, membership had grown to 1,800 members and assets swelled to $30,000. Membership and assets continued to grow steadily from that point as base civilians took advantage of credit union membership. At the end of 1984, S.A.F.E. was ranked the 75th largest credit union of the 21,000 credit unions in the United States, with assets of nearly $143 million and a membership of approximately 40,000.

The full history of SAFE is a compendium of the vision, trials, and achievements of numerous dedicated board and committee volunteers, credit union employees, and active members. Today, SAFE celebrates membership of more than 165,000 members and more than $1.9 billion in assets. SAFE is the second largest credit union in the Sacramento region, within the largest 25 in California, and the largest 100 in the United States.

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Notable Moments in SAFE History

Sacramento Air Depot (S.A.D) Federal Credit Union is founded to serve civilian Air Force employees at McClellan Field, Sacramento and their families.

Membership grows to 465.

The credit union becomes a qualified issuing agent of war bonds.

Membership grows to 795.

The credit union exceeds one million dollars in assets, and also loans its one-millionth dollar.

The name is officially changed to S.A.F.E. Federal Credit Union.

S.A.F.E. opens branch at 4636 Watt Avenue to serve members in North Highlands.

S.A.F.E. merges with Graphic Arts Credit Union, adding 5,000 members.

S.A.F.E. opens branch at 7475 Madison Avenue to serve members in Citrus Heights.

Member deposit accounts receive insurance up to $100,000 by the National Credit Union Administration, a substantial increase from $40,000. Congress passes legislation authorizing credit unions to provide share drafts (checking accounts) to members.

Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) made available to members.

S.A.F.E. reaches $100,000,000 in asset strength. Telephone Center opened to serve members conveniently by telephone. Real Estate loans offered through CUNA Mutual Corporation. CALL-24 Phone Banking service introduced, offering members 24/7 account access via an audio-response telephone system.

Henry W. Wirz is selected by the Board of Directors as the new president of S.A.F.E. after Robert W. White retires. National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) allows federally chartered credit unions to serve more than one select employer group, and S.A.F.E. offers membership to Qualimetrics, Inc., and Senior Gleaners, Inc.

SAFE opens a branch on McClellan Air Force Base in North Highlands.

SAFE opens a branch in the Galleria Center in midtown Sacramento.

SAFE celebrates a half-century of service with a 50th Anniversary Fiesta.

SAFE ends the year with more than $250 million in assets.

SAFE opens a branch in Roseville.

SAFE merges with McClellan Federal Credit Union, adding three new branch locations in Citrus Heights, North Highlands, and Antelope.

SAFE moves Antelope branch to larger location at 7921 Walerga Road in the Bel Air Centre.

SAFE introduces the Freedom Check Card (now SAFE Visa® Debit Card), offering members convenient access to their checking accounts through the Visa network.

Members vote in favor of conversion to a State Charter, changing the credit union's name from SAFE Federal Credit Union to SAFE Credit Union. As a state chartered credit union, SAFE is regulated by the California Department of Financial Institutions (DFI).

SAFE introduces CU@Home Online Home Banking (now SAFE Online Banking), allowing members easy Internet-based account access anytime. Online Bill Payment service is also introduced.

SAFE opens a new, full-service branch at 7601 Sunrise Boulevard in Citrus Heights, as well as a new non-cash branch inside the Food Source Grocery Store at 3509 Bradshaw Road in Sacramento.

SAFE completes the renovation of its Watt Avenue branch in North Highlands.

SAFE opens a new, full-service branch in Granite Bay, and another full-service branch in Rocklin.

SAFE adds the Nationwide CO-OP Network ATM providing surcharge-free ATM access to its list of member benefits.

SAFE members make a generous contribution of $86,865 to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund in support of victims suffering from Hurricane Katrina.

SAFE implements the SAFE Start Scholarship Program, rewarding college-bound students for outstanding scholastic achievements.

SAFE opens a new, full-service branch in Laguna.

SAFE opens a new, full-service branch in Folsom.

SAFE completes the renovation of its Citrus Heights branch.

SAFE assets reach one billion dollars.

SAFE opens its first Yolo County branch on December 1 in West Sacramento.

An expansion of SAFE’s community charter doubles the number of Northern California counties it can serve to 12. The new counties are Amador, Butte, Nevada, San Joaquin, Solano, and Contra Costa. These join SAFE’s existing service area which includes Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer, Sutter, Yolo, and Yuba counties.

SAFE opens a new full-service branch in Natomas. The 4,900 square-foot branch features SAFE’s new, interactive account application system.

SAFE opens a student-run branch on the campus of Rio Linda High School.

SAFE opens a second full-service branch in Roseville. At this location, members have access to a mortgage officer, financial consultant, member service representatives, and an Advance Service Counter where they can get quick responses to requests such as ATM card recoding and balance inquiries.

SAFE opens a full-service in-store branch conveniently located in the Placerville Raley’s. Prospective and current credit union members enjoy the convenience of in-store banking along with access to traditional SAFE branch services.

SAFE opens a new branch in Elk Grove that offers teller, loan, and new account services in an attractive, state-of-the-art facility.

SAFE opens a new branch in Lincoln.

SAFE opens a new branch location at El Camino and Butano Way in Sacramento.

Capital Power Credit Union merges into SAFE Credit Union. The previous Capital Power branch in East Sacramento becomes SAFE’s 20th branch.

SAFE introduces Perfect Cents Savings®, a free service that allows members to save every time they shop. Every time a participating member uses their SAFE Visa Debit Card, the transaction is rounded up to the nearest dollar and the excess is transferred to the SAFE savings account of their choice.

SAFE launches FinanceWorksTM within Online Banking. FinanceWorks is a free online personal money-management solution which allows members to see their complete financial picture.

SAFE’s corporate office in North Highlands receives Green Certification from Sacramento County Business Environmental Resource Center (BERC)

SAFE introduces a full suite of small business products and services, including SBA loans.

SAFE provides a full suite of business services, including Small Business Administration loans and lines of credit, and is ranked #3 in number of local SBA loans.

American River HealthPro Credit Union merges into SAFE Credit Union. The previous American River HealthPro branch in Rancho Cordova becomes SAFE’s 21st branch.

SAFE receives the state-level Desjardins Award from the California Credit Union League and the Beacon Award from the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation for its commitment to youth financial literacy.

SAFE launches changethewayyoubank.org, an innovative website designed to help people earn more, save more, and get organized.

A new Community Banking division is launched, providing unique financial solutions and community support for leading employers in our region.

SAFE reaches membership of more than 150,000 and assets in excess of $1.6 billion.

SAFE Volunteer! launches as a formal program empowering SAFE employees to become active volunteers and improve the lives of the members we serve and the communities we share.

SAFE rises to the rank of #1 local SBA lender.

Henry Wirz receives the Leo H. Shapiro Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor bestowed by the California Credit Union, recognizing excellence in credit union philosophy and a lifetime of contributions to the credit union movement.

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