A Credit Union is a not-for-profit cooperative financial institution that provides financial services to its members. Credit unions are owned and operated by their members, and they offer a variety of financial services, including checking accounts, savings accounts, loans, and credit cards.
Credit unions are different from banks in a number of ways. First, credit unions are owned by their members, while banks are owned by shareholders. Second, credit unions are not-for-profit, while banks are for-profit. This means that credit unions typically offer lower interest rates on loans and higher interest rates on savings accounts than banks.
Third, credit unions are typically more community-oriented than banks. Many credit unions are affiliated with specific groups, such as employers, religious organizations, or community groups. This gives credit unions a deeper understanding of the needs of their members, and it allows them to offer more personalized service.
To join a credit union, you typically need to meet certain membership requirements. These requirements may vary depending on the credit union, but they often include living in a certain geographic area, working for a certain employer, or being a member of a certain organization.
Once you are a member of a credit union, you have access to all of the financial services that it offers. You can open a checking or savings account, apply for a loan, or get a credit card. Credit unions also offer a variety of other services, such as online banking, mobile banking, and bill pay.
Credit unions are a great option for people who are looking for affordable and convenient financial services. They offer a variety of products and services, and they are typically more member-oriented than banks.
Benefits of Credit Unions
Credit unions offer a number of benefits over traditional banks, including:
- Lower interest rates on loans: Credit unions are not-for-profit organizations, which means that they can pass on lower interest rates to their members. This can save borrowers a significant amount of money over the life of a loan.
Higher interest rates on savings accounts: Credit unions typically offer higher interest rates on savings accounts than banks. This means that savers can earn more money on their savings.
Lower fees: Credit unions typically charge lower fees than banks. This can include fees for checking and savings accounts, ATM fees, and overdraft fees.
- More personalized service: Credit unions are typically smaller than banks, which allows them to offer more personalized service to their members. Credit union staff are often more knowledgeable about the products and services that they offer, and they are more likely to take the time to get to know each member's individual needs.
- Community-oriented: Credit unions are often involved in their local communities. They may sponsor community events, donate to local charities, or offer financial education programs.
Here are some examples of how credit unions can benefit people in different life stages:
- Students: Credit unions can offer students affordable loans for tuition and other expenses. They can also help students build their credit history by offering credit cards and other financial products.
- Young professionals: Credit unions can help young professionals get on their feet by offering competitive rates on loans and savings accounts. They can also offer advice on financial planning and investing.
- Families: Credit unions can help families save for their children's education and buy a home. They can also offer financial protection products such as Life Insurance and disability insurance.
- Retirees: Credit unions can help retirees make the most of their retirement savings by offering competitive rates on CDs and other investment products. They can also offer financial advice and estate planning services.
Credit unions offer a wide range of financial services, including:
- Checking and savings accounts: Credit unions offer checking and savings accounts with competitive interest rates and low fees.
- Loans: Credit unions offer a variety of loans, including personal loans, auto loans, mortgage loans, and business loans.
- Credit cards: Credit unions offer credit cards with competitive interest rates and rewards programs.
- Investment services: Credit unions offer a variety of investment services, such as CDs, IRAs, and mutual funds.
- Online and mobile banking: Credit unions offer online and mobile banking services so that members can manage their finances from anywhere.
- Bill pay: Credit unions offer bill pay services so that members can easily pay their bills online.
In addition to these standard financial services, many credit unions also offer a variety of other services, such as:
- Financial education: Credit unions offer financial education programs to help members learn about money management, budgeting, and investing.
- Identity theft protection: Credit unions offer identity theft protection services to help members protect their personal information.
- Tax preparation assistance: Credit unions offer tax preparation assistance to help members file their taxes accurately.
- Travel services: Credit unions offer travel services to help members book flights, hotels, and rental cars.
- Insurance: Credit unions offer a variety of insurance products, such as auto insurance, home insurance, and life insurance.
Types of Credit Unions
There are several types of credit unions, each defined by its field of membership. Not everyone is eligible for every type of credit union.
- Community credit unions: Also known as local credit unions, community credit unions exist to serve a specific resident — of a city, county or area. Typically all that is required to join is residence within a defined region.
- Employee credit unions: Employer credit unions serve a specific company, profession or industry. Teachers, firefighters, postal employees, media employees and workers for a specific government agency may have their own credit union.
- Group credit unions: These typically serve churches or other small fraternal organizations. Group credit unions usually limit membership to a specific group, like those supporting social and environmental causes.
- College credit unions: More than 120 universities and colleges have credit unions for students, alumni, staff and faculty. Special care is directed toward making services affordable for students.
Federal credit unions: Federal credit unions are chartered by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and are subject to federal regulations. They offer a wide range of financial services to their members.
State-chartered credit unions: State-chartered credit unions are chartered by a state government agency and are subject to state regulations. They typically offer the same services as federal credit unions.
Credit unions can also be classified by their size:
- Small credit unions: Small credit unions have assets of less than $100 million.
- Medium credit unions: Medium credit unions have assets of $100 million to $1 billion.
- Large credit unions: Large credit unions have assets of more than $1 billion.
To learn more about the different types of credit unions and the services that they offer, you can visit the website of the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).
Credit Unions vs. Banks
Credit unions and banks are both financial institutions that offer a variety of financial services to their customers. However, there are some key differences between the two types of institutions.
Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives, meaning that they are owned and operated by their members. Banks, on the other hand, are for-profit institutions that are owned by shareholders.
Credit unions typically have membership requirements, while banks do not. Membership requirements can vary depending on the credit union, but they often include living in a certain geographic area, working for a certain employer, or being a member of a certain organization.
Credit unions and banks offer a similar range of financial services, such as checking and savings accounts, loans, and credit cards. However, credit unions are typically more focused on providing affordable and convenient financial services to their members, while banks are more focused on generating profits for their shareholders.
Credit unions typically charge lower fees than banks. This includes fees for checking and savings accounts, ATM fees, and overdraft fees.
Credit unions are typically known for providing more personalized customer service than banks. This is because credit unions are smaller and more community-oriented than banks.
Here is a table that summarizes the key differences between credit unions and banks:
|Ownership||Not-for-profit cooperatives||For-profit institutions|
|Membership||Typically required||Not required|
|Services||Checking and savings accounts, loans, credit cards, and other financial services||Checking and savings accounts, loans, credit cards, and other financial services|
|Fees||Typically lower||Typically higher|
|Customer service||Typically more personalized||Typically less personalized|
Largest Credit Unions
The largest credit unions in the world, by total assets, as of August 4, 2023, are:
- Navy Federal Credit Union ($156.6 billion)
- State Employees' Credit Union ($50.9 billion)
- Pentagon Federal Credit Union ($35.5 billion)
- Boeing Employees Credit Union ($28.8 billion)
- SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union ($26.4 billion)
- United Services Automobile Association (USAA) Federal Savings Bank ($25.8 billion)
- First Tech Federal Credit Union ($24.3 billion)
- Wright-Patt Credit Union ($23.9 billion)
- Security Service Federal Credit Union ($23.8 billion)
- Vancity Credit Union ($23.4 billion)
These credit unions serve millions of members around the world and offer a wide range of financial products and services.
Generally, interest rates are lower on loans and higher on savings as compared to the banking counterparts.
Any profits made by the credit union is returned to the members.