What is a Credit Union?
A credit union is a not-for-profit financial institution cooperatively owned by its members. Credit Unions focus on serving members, rather than on maximizing profit. Earnings go back to members in the form of more favorable rates and fewer and lower fees for products and services. Credit Unions offer many of the same products and services offered by other financial institutions, like checking and savings accounts, personal, auto and mortgage loans, credit cards, direct deposit, online and mobile banking, and ATM networks.
Customers of credit unions are called “members”. Members of a credit union own and control the institution. The Board of Directors and Supervisory Committee of a credit union are composed of uncompensated, volunteer members. Only members can serve on the Board of Directors or Supervisory committee, or vote in annual elections. Member savings accounts are federally insured up to $250,000 and IRA accounts are separately insured up to $250,000 by the NCUA (National Credit Union Administration), a US Government Agency. The share insurance provided by the NCUA is similar to the deposit insurance coverage that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) offers to banks.
To join a credit union, you must belong to the “field of membership” that it serves. The field of membership is the common link that all members of a credit union share and it can be based on:
- Employer – Many credit unions are created to serve a specific employee group or are sponsored by a particular employer
- Geographic Location – Membership is open to people living, working, worshiping or attending school in a specific geographic location.
- Family – Most credit unions allow members’ families to join. If someone in your family is already a member of a credit union, you may also be eligible to join.
- Membership in a Group – a church, school or alumni, labor union, professional organization, etc.
Joining a credit union can be as easy as opening a Share (savings) Account with as little as $5.00