What is a Credit Union?

Credit unions offer members a safe place to save and borrow at reasonable rates.

Since the opening of the first U.S. credit union in 1909, credit unions have provided financial services for many people left unserved or underserved by traditional banking institutions.

A federal credit union is a cooperative financial institution chartered by the federal government and owned by individual members. Today's credit unions remain unique financial institutions with a "not-for-profit but for service" operating philosophy. Annual polls show that credit unions lead the financial community year after year by providing top quality personal service to millions of Americans.

Credit unions keep pace with the needs of their members by offering a variety of products and services. For example, many federal credit unions offer:

  • share drafts (checking accounts),
  • share savings,
  • share certificates, 
  • retirement accounts,
  • credit and debit cards, and
  • electronic services.

In recent years, many federal credit unions have expanded their lending programs to include real estate and member business loans, as well as traditional consumer loans.

"Not one penny lost"

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) is the independent federal agency that charters and supervises federal credit unions. NCUA, backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, operates the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), insuring the savings of more than 103 million account holders in all federal credit unions and the majority of state-chartered credit unions.

The NCUA share insurance limit was permanently increased on July 22, 2010, to at least $250,000 per individual depositor, per federally-insured credit union. The share insurance provided by NCUA is similar to the deposit insurance coverage that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) offers.

No member of a federally-insured credit union has ever lost one penny of insured savings.

State vs. Federal Credit Unions

Federal Credit Union: NCUA is the regulator for ALL federal credit unions. Federal credit unions generally have the word "federal" in its name. Additionally, credit unions with headquarters in Arkansas, Delaware, South Dakota, Wyoming or the District of Columbia, are federal credit unions.

State-Chartered Credit Union: If a credit union does not have the word "federal" as a part of its name and is not headquartered in Arkansas, Delaware, South Dakota, Wyoming or the District of Columbia, then it is probably a state-chartered credit union, and the state supervisory authority where the credit union's main branch is located will usually be the regulator.