WTF is a Credit Union? And Why You May Want To Use One

One major way you can support your local community is to bank within it. A credit union is an awesome way to do so. They offer competitive interest rates on loans and help your town or city grow and thrive. We broke down how to start banking at a credit union and why you should consider doing it in this She Spends guide. 

What is a credit union? 
A credit union is like a bank, but it’s made up of members who make the decisions for it — unlike a bank, where the decisions are made by an executive team and a board of directors. Credit unions are not-for-profit institutions. 

How can I join a credit union?
To join a credit union, you must belong to a specific community. Some are created specifically for teachers or church members, while others are geographically broad, such as enveloping Brooklyn or the entire internet, in some cases. You can use the National Credit Union Administration to find credit unions in your community. 

How do credit unions work? 
Credit unions are member owned, and decisions are made by a board elected by and made up of members. Most board members are not paid, but some may receive a small stipend — unlike major banks, which are publicly traded and thus not only beholden to customers, but also shareholders (their investors). This can sometimes lead to banks not having your best interests in mind. 

Credit unions are insured in the same way banks are, so they’re just as safe to use. Because they are smaller, there is more potential for them to be acquired by a larger institution. That said, an acquisition doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad will happen to your account. It may just be transferred to another institution. 

What are the benefits of using a credit union? 
One of the biggest benefits of using a credit union is that it is an investment in your community. A credit union offers loans to your local area and is able to keep its doors open through customers who use it as a regular bank. 

Beyond that, loans often carry a lower interest rate at credit unions. This, of course, is dependent on each institution and certainly isn’t true at every credit union. But that possibility alone makes a credit union worth checking out. 

Credit unions are also hubs for financial literacy in many communities. Most offer classes on budgeting and acquiring small business loans and investing, and many are offered for free. Check out the options at your local credit union to see what types of financial literacy events you could be attending. 

- Alicia McElhaney / She Spends Issue #55

giphy (97).gif
Saves_Divider (1).png