Advantages of banking with a credit union

University of Wisconsin Credit Union at the corner of Mifflin and Pinckney in Madison.

Visit America's Credit Unions website to find a credit union near you. (Photo Credit: CC BY/John Benson/Flickr)

One of the most important decisions consumers can make regarding their money is where to keep it. Banks are a common option, but those who have tried depositor-owned credit unions will argue that the advantages over banks make them quite worthwhile. Here are a few of the advantages of choosing a credit union versus a bank.

Shareholder versus depositor interest

While large commercial banks are the domain of corporate shareholders – and hence most concerned with generating profits for a small, select group – credit unions belong to the members. Volunteer customers even serve on each credit union’s board of directors. The sense of shared ownership is reflected in the name credit unions give to checking accounts: share draft accounts.

Interest rates on loans are generally lower at credit unions than banks, and the rate of return on deposits can be significantly higher, particularly on CDs. A credit union’s responsibility to its depositors is highly desirable for the average banking customer.

Smaller size, better individual care

Considering that credit unions are smaller than most banks and generally have fewer overall customers, the opportunity for greater individual care from a financial professional exists. The tradeoff here is that ATM networks may be smaller with credit unions, and the list of services provided will be slightly abbreviated when compared with those of a large bank.

NCUA stability

The banking crisis has caused many smaller banks to go under. Larger banks have depended upon federal bailout money and taxed the reserves of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to the limit. Credit union deposits are insured against loss by the National Credit Union Administration, and the number comparison is telling, reports Bankrate. From the beginnings of the financial crisis through May 2011, 44 FDIC-insured banks failed, versus only nine NCUA-insured credit unions. This disparity exists largely because banks made more risky loans in their drive to boost shareholder profits.

Payday loans at a credit union near you

Recent programs instituted by the NCUA, such as Better Solutions, have enabled credit unions to offer payday loans and similar short term loans to customers at annual interest rates that top out at about 28 percent. A 30-day repayment period is required, and the number of loans a customer can take within a six-month period is limited to three.

Banks versus credit unions

Sources

America’s Credit Unions

Bankrate.com

MonitorBankRates.com