What Is A Credit Union?
Member ownership and control are what make credit unions unique.
A credit union is a cooperative financial institution, owned and controlled by the people who use its services. These people are members. Credit unions serve groups that share something in common, such as where they work, live, or go to church.
Credit unions are not-for-profit, and exist to provide a safe, convenient place for members to save money and to get loans at reasonable rates. Credit unions, like other financial institutions, are closely regulated. And they operate in a very prudent manner. The National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, administered by the National Credit Union Administration, an agency of the federal government, insures deposits of credit union members at more than 11,000 federal and state-chartered credit unions nationwide. Deposits are insured up to $250,000.
What makes a credit union different from a bank or savings & loan?
Like credit unions, these financial institutions accept deposits and make loans—but unlike credit unions, they are in business to make a profit. Banks and savings & loans are owned by groups of stockholders whose interests include earning a healthy return on their investments.
WHY JOIN A CREDIT UNION?
Founded on the basic democratic premise of the cooperative movement, credit unions believe that access to low-cost financial services is critical to the health and stability of ordinary citizens. In fact, more than 67 million Americans trust that their credit union will provide the services to improve their financial wellbeing.
Credit union membership offers many benefits. Services offered range from simple savings to home equity loans. Study after study has revealed that on average, credit unions provide the best financial offerings with fewer fees, lower rates on loans and higher rates on savings. And credit unions continually score higher than all other financial institutions in consumer satisfaction surveys.
Credit unions strive to deliver the best service possible to their most important asset - their members.
HISTORY OF CREDIT UNIONS
The credit union idea is a simple one: People should be able to pool their money and make loans to each other. It's an idea that evolved from cooperative activities in 19th century Europe.
Since that time, the idea's guiding principles have remained the same:(1) Only people who are credit union members should borrow there; (2) loans are made for 'prudent and productive' purposes; (3) a person's desire to repay (character) is considered more important than the ability (income) to repay. Members are, after all, borrowing their own money and that of their friends. These principles still govern most of the world's credit unions.
As the 20th century began, the credit union idea surfaced in Canada. Canada's successful efforts profoundly influenced two Americans: Pierre Jay, the Massachusetts banking commissioner, and Edward A. Filene, a Boston merchant.
The two men helped organize public hearings on credit union legislation in Massachusetts, leading to passage of the first state credit union act in 1909.
REGULATION & SUPERVISION
Federally chartered credit unions are regulated by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), an independent agency of the U.S. Government. NCUA's three board members are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
State chartered credit unions are regulated by their state credit union department. NCUA administers the federal insurance fund, NCUSIF, which covers all federal credit unions, and most state chartered credit unions. No taxpayer money is used for regulating and overseeing federal credit unions, as all activities of NCUA and the NCUSIF are funded by credit unions.