Is a Credit Union Right for Me?

 

People all over the world belong to credit unions, including over 98 million members in the United States. Because credit unions are not-for-profit financial institutions, their focus is serving the financial needs of their members and not making a profit. On the whole, credit unions typically offer higher rates on savings, fewer fees, and lower rates on loans. Here's what you can expect from a credit union:

Personal Service

Credit unions provide personal service designed to help members grow their savings, pay off debt, and plan for the future. Many credit unions also provide free financial literacy resources, training, and counseling to help their members better understand and handle their financial matters.

Voting Rights

Credit unions are democratically run financial institutions providing each credit union member one vote. Members vote on those from the membership who are running for the credit union’s board of directors, as well as any other credit union official positions open for election at the annual membership meeting.

Not-for-profit Focus

Credit unions are member-owned and operated, not-for-profit organizations. This enables them to fairly price products and services as well as offer competitive interest rates. See Credit Union and Bank Rate Data.

Community Spirit

As groups with a common geographic area, workplace or other association, members often have shared interests and appreciate participating in an institution designed to help other members.

Fewer Fees

Credit unions tend to offer fewer and sometimes reduced fees for their products and services compared to those of other financial service institutions due to their not-for-profit, cooperative structure. Credit unions generally also have no or lower minimum balance requirements.

Expanded Services

Credit unions have been able to keep pace with the needs of their members by offering a variety of products and services in addition to savings and consumer loans, including:

  • Direct deposit
  • Financial education/counseling 
  • Shared branching where branches of other credit unions are available to their members
  • Electronic banking
  • ATMs
  • ACH origination
  • Overdraft protection
  • Home equity loans
  • Mortgage loans
  • Member business loans

Most credit unions either offer free access to a large network of ATMs or provide reimbursement for fees incurred when using other institutions' machines.

Shared Income

Credit unions return surplus income to their members in the form of dividends.

Insured Deposits

Through the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), which is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government, the funds of all federal and most state-chartered credit union members are insured up to at least $250,000 per individual depositor, per federally insured credit union. Member’s account balances in excess of $250,000 at a federally insured credit union can be insured if properly structured.  For additional information on NCUA’s share insurance coverage, see Share Insurance Coverage.

Accessible to Most Americans

To join a credit union, you must be eligible for membership. Members of each credit union share a "common bond," such as being employed by the same employer, belonging to an organization or church, or living in the same community. Some credit unions serve multiple groups with different common bonds. Each credit union determines the specific group or field of membership it will serve, subject to approval of its regulator. To locate a credit union near you, see How to Find a Credit Union in Your Area.