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.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
10 Bad Money Habits That Are Robbing You Blind
10 Bad Money Habits That Are Robbing You Blind

Here’s how to change those bad behaviors.

9 Indestructible Products That Are Worth the Price
9 Indestructible Products That Are Worth the Price

If you’re willing to pay a little more for these products, you may never have to shop for another again.

Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?
Could You Give Up These 7 Expenses to Save Thousands of Dollars a Year?

You could save more than $30,000 by setting aside these costly expenses for just one year.

10 Things That Can Ding Your Social Security Payments
10 Things That Can Ding Your Social Security Payments

Here are 10 things that could mean less money in your pocket during retirement.

7 Deadly Health Mistakes People Make After Age 50
7 Deadly Health Mistakes People Make After Age 50

Simply avoiding these actions, or lack thereof, can improve the odds of a longer, more healthful life.

View this page without ads

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

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Vacuums from this brand can last a half-century, if not longer — and they’re hot on the resale market.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs
Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs

Don’t let these health care expenses catch you off guard in retirement.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

12 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
12 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken
Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken

Something foul may lurk in those delicious, ready-to-eat birds.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees
5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees

All of these states are located in the same region of the nation.

36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon
36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon

The writing is on the wall for dozens of things we have grown up with.

5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic
5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic

Sometimes the brand-name version is clearly superior.

View More Articles

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.