FAQs — The Credit Union Difference
What is a credit union?
A credit union is a member-owned, not-for-profit, cooperative financial institution. Credit unions operate under a unique philosophy of “people helping people,” allowing their members to pool their savings, lend to one another, and own the organization where they can obtain financial services. Credit unions exist solely to serve their member-owners, and provide favorable savings rates and low-interest loan rates.
Credit Union Philosophy
The credit union system is made up of organizations at the local, state, and national levels. Credit unions, corporate credit unions, chapters, leagues, and league service corporations serve member needs on the local and state levels. On the national level, Credit Union National Association and its affiliates, CUNA Service Group and U.S. Central Credit Union, provide the leadership, products, and services credit unions need to compete effectively in today's financial marketplace.
The credit union system gives credit unions the strongest support network in the financial services world. Through this cooperative effort, credit unions of all sizes combine their individual strengths and can offer their members a broad range of sophisticated financial services. The programs, products, and services of the credit union system are available to credit unions through league affiliation, and are supported by fees and dues.
Can I join a credit union?
There is most likely a credit union that you can join right now. There are many ways to be part of a credit union. Each credit union serves a "field of membership" which is made up of people who all share a “common bond.” You may be eligible to join one or more credit unions based on:
- Your employer/workplace
- Your geographic area
- Your school
- Your place of worship
- Your ethnic group
- An organization which you may belong to
How can I locate a credit union to join?
- Go to www.findacreditunion.com, and enter the requested information.
- FindACreditUnion.com will provide a list of credit unions that you may be eligible to join based on your information.
- To get detailed information on one or more of the listed credit unions, click on that credit union’s name. This will open up a screen with information such as the credit union's website and contact information.
- To request contact from a credit union, just complete the contact information fields in the information form provided at the end of the credit union detail screen. A representative from the credit union will contact you.
What are some advantages of joining a credit union?
When you’re a member of a credit union, you have a say in how your credit union is run. A credit union is a democratic, member-owned cooperative, and each credit union holds an annual election where members select candidates for the Board of Directors. Credit union elections are based on a one-member, one-vote structure. This is very different from a bank, where stockholders vote according to the number of shares of stock they own.
Also unlike banks, credit unions are not-for-profit, which enables them to operate at a lower cost than many for-profit institutions, and helps them to offer competitive loan and savings rates to their members.
What services do credit unions offer?
Credit unions offer a wide range of financial services to help you meet your financial needs:
- Free Savings and Checking Accounts
- Surcharge-Free ATMs
- Automotive and Home Loans
- Online financial services
- Financial Counseling
- And much more!
Additional consumer information: creditunionswork.org | findacreditunion.com
As the credit union movement has spread internationally, the simple ideas behind it have remained the same:
- only people who were credit union members should borrow there;
- loans would be made for "prudent and productive" purposes;
- a person's desire to repay (character) would be considered more important than the ability (income) to repay; they were, after all, borrowing their own money and that of their friends.
These principles still govern most of the credit unions in the world.