As they become more competitive in areas like ATM access and online banking, they may look increasingly like banks from the outside. But from the inside out, credit unions are unique. Instead of operating for the benefit of shareholders, as banks do, credit unions are owned by their members, for their members. When you join and open an account, you become a shareholder.
What this means, in practical terms, is that your membership offers you access to lower interest rates on loans, significantly lower fees on accounts, and higher rates on savings. Because they are not-for-profit organizations, any excess funds collected are returned to you, the shareholders, in the form of dividends.
They have been innovators in bringing the convenience of nationwide banking to their members without sacrificing the spirit of community. For example, they have teamed up with CO-OP Network, one of the nation’s largest ATM networks with over 30,000 locations, to bring you access to surcharge-free ATMs across the country and around the world. You can find a CO-OP Network ATM near you by visiting coopnetwork.org. Or simply drop by a 7-Eleven store: surcharge-free CO-OP Network ATMs are available in over 5,500 7-Eleven stores nationwide.
They pride themselves by giving their members access to financial information. They offer seminars on topics such as preventing identity theft or managing your credit. Their websites contain resources about making smarter financial choices as well as managing money online.
Banks can seem cold, formal and even unreachable. Credit unions can be friendlier in atmosphere as well as tone and can simply be more accessible on every level. Being smaller and local allows them to be very connected to their community and much more adaptable to respond to member feedback.
Credit Unions offer nearly everything else a nationwide bank might offer-online account access, online bill pay, credit and debit cards, insurance on accounts, etc. But they do it within a member-focused philosophy; where the goal is to help the members achieve financial health, not just boost their bottom line. That’s why credit unions also offer a range of services, including free checking, lower interest auto, personal and real estate loans, financial planning, insurance, and member education.