How to Pick the Best Credit Union for You

You may have heard that many people like credit unions better than banks.

The nonprofit, member-owned financial institutions often have lower interest rates on loans and credit cards, higher rates on savings and fewer fees for checking accounts. To some, they also seem friendlier.

But with so many choices, how do you pick the credit union that’s right for you? Compare rates and fees, of course, but you also should check out these criteria:

1. Can I join?

Anybody can join a credit union, but not necessarily any credit union. Eligibility may be based on:

  • Employer: Many employers sponsor their own credit unions.
  • Location: Many credit unions serve anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in an area.
  • Family: Many credit unions allow members’ families to join. So, if someone in your family is a member of a credit union, you may be eligible, too.
  • Group membership: Belonging to specific churches, schools, alumni associations, labor unions and homeowners associations may qualify you.

2. Does it offer services I need?

Make sure that your credit union offers home lending services, issues credit and debit cards, provides auto loans, features a good savings program, and offers financial counseling.

Also, know whether you’ll have easy access to ATMs or branches nationwide.

Ask if banking is restricted to business hours. Also, if you need it, see whether the credit union offers mobile apps to view your account balances, pay bills, deposit checks and send money online.

Maybe you’re looking for services such as investment, retirement and estate planning. Some credit unions offer personal finance help like their big-bank cousins, others don’t. So be sure to ask.

3. Which credit unions are located near me?

Online resources can help. CreditUnion.gov offers a tool that identifies credit union branches by ZIP code or city, shows which of them have drive-through lanes or ATMs, and provides details including address, phone number and website.

4. Will my money be safe?

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), with the backing of the U.S. government, operates and manages the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, insuring up to $250,000 for each member the deposits of all federal credit unions and the majority of state-chartered credit unions.

5. How do I get started?

If you are eligible to join, you can easily become a credit union member by completing a membership application, depositing and maintaining the minimum par value of a share, and paying a one-time membership fee if there is one.

Also, if you’re moving your business from a bank, ask if the credit union can make transferring easy with a switch kit. The time-saving packet of forms and information guides you through the process of switching and may include direct deposit forms, worksheets and checklists.

What’s your experience with credit unions? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

How to find cheaper car insurance in minutes

Getting a better deal on car insurance doesn't have to be hard. You can have The Zebra, an insurance comparison site compare quotes in just a few minutes and find you the best rates. Consumers save an average of $368 per year, according to the site, so if you're ready to secure your new rate, get started now.

Why Is My Pension Killing My Social Security Benefit?
Why Is My Pension Killing My Social Security Benefit?

A reader says the government is penalizing him for having a pension. Is he right?

8 Types of Companies That Check Your Credit Report
8 Types of Companies That Check Your Credit Report

Federal law lets these entities peek at your credit — regardless of whether you’re borrowing money.

8 Secrets of an Expert Thrift Store Shopper
8 Secrets of an Expert Thrift Store Shopper

Here’s how a veteran thrift shopper scores the best deals — and turns a profit from them.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.