Bethpage Federal Credit Union, the state's largest, said it has reached a significant milestone in the growth of its home equity credit business: $1 billion in outstanding balances.

The credit union, which has 275,000 members, said it held 16 percent of Long Island's home equity lending business last year and that its share rose to 36 percent in the first quarter of this year, in both cases based on information from an outside market research company.

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John Witterschein, Bethpage's vice president of consumer credit, attributed the growth largely to better training of staff members in the details of home equity loans. "We put them through approximately 40 hours of training and we give them exams," he said.

Bethpage recently introduced a new line-of-credit offer with an annual percentage rate of 1.99 percent for the first year, with no application fee and no closing fees. Rates for most customers would then rise to the prime rate, now at 3.25 percent, Witterschein said.

Bethpage has 33 full-service branches and more than 60 in supermarkets, pharmacies and other locations.