2014-02-14 / Business

It is easier than ever to join a credit union

While banks have long been the place people go to securely deposit their money, a growing number of people are exploring the benefits of credit unions. Laws require credit unions to have a defined field of membership. Although credit unions have certain requirements for membership, some consumers are finding it’s easier than ever to join a credit union.

Many people gain access to a credit union through their employers, who may have a previously established relationship with the credit union. But there are other ways to join a credit union. Memberships at churches, fraternal organizations, specific communities, schools, and various other organizations may make certain people eligible to open an account at a credit union.

Credit unions are similar to banks, but unlike banks, credit unions are nonprofit entities. This means that any profits earned by a credit union will not be given to shareholders. Instead, credit unions pass on profits to members in the form of lower fees and better service. In some instances, credit unions may offer dividends to members. It is very likely a person can make more interest at a credit union on certain services than they might at a bank. In addition, credit union account holders often pay lower fees on those accounts than they would if their money was in a bank.

Credit unions are often communitybased. Large banks may have branches around the globe, but many credit unions have just one or two locations. This can be advantageous to those looking to do business directly with members of their community. However, it also makes it harder to access your money without paying certain fees, such as those you might pay when withdrawing money from an ATM not affiliated with your credit union.

Many credit union account holders cite better customer service as another advantage credit unions have over banks. Because credit unions are cornerstones of some communities, their employees may have more personalized interaction with members and be willing to go above and beyond for those members.

Credit unions may have more lenient overdraft charges or be able to work with customers more readily than some banks. A credit union customer may have an easier time securing a loan if they are already a member. Credit unions also are known for lower interest rates than banks, particularly on auto loans.

Credit unions are just as safe as banks. A person’s money is insured by the National Credit Union Administration up to a predetermined amount. Some credit unions use private insurance but are insured nonetheless.

Those interested in joining a credit union can visit the Credit Union National Association Web site at www.cuna.org to find a credit union nearby. Individuals also can talk to their employers and any other groups to which they belong to find a credit union that fits their membership criteria. As with a bank, a person will need forms of identification and a certain sum of money to deposit to secure a credit union account.

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