When you think about it, choosing a financial partner ranks right up there with other important life choices. Above all, you want a partner you can trust, one that always looks out for your best interests and puts your financial needs first. So what makes sense for your situation, a credit union or a bank? Both offer many of the same financial products, such as checking and savings accounts, credit and debit cards, loans and retirement accounts, among others. But here's the key difference: credit unions are member-owned, not-for-profit financial institutions. Once operating expenses are met, credit unions return profits to you and other members in the form of higher interest on savings, lower interest rates on loans, and valuable new products and services. That’s just not how for-profit banks do it. Check out some of the other differences between credit unions and banks listed below:
You belong to a credit union. You're more than a customer, you're a member. To become a member, you have to meet certain eligibility criteria established by each individual credit union. The requirements might be a relationship to a business, a community, a career or a military institution. For instance, among the ways you can become eligible for membership at Oregon Community Credit Union, you must: live or work in OCCU's 28-county service area, be an immediate family member of an OCCU member or someone living in the membership area, be a student or employee of the University of Oregon or be a member of the UO Alumni Association. The link above contains a complete list of OCCU eligibility criteria.
Owned by members
When is a member more than a member? When they're also owners! Credit unions are owned by the members they serve. By funding your primary share account, you own a share in the organization. Members elect a board of directors to help set the strategic vision and oversee the management of the credit union.
Better interest rates
As member-owned nonprofits, credit unions' main focus is on providing value for members. This allows OCCU to return its profits to members in the form of higher yields on savings, money markets, and certificates while offering lower rates on credit cards and loans.
Credit unions typically charge fewer and lower fees for their financial services. At OCCU, for instance, we offer overdraft protection to avoid insufficient fund fees, and we charge no administrative and maintenance fees for Individual Retirement Accounts. It’s estimated that every year consumers save billions of dollars by taking their business to a credit union instead of banks.
Local or regional credit unions may not have nationwide branches like big banks, but credit unions do offer options that level the playing field. Credit unions like OCCU that are part of the CO-OP network allow members to use "shared branching," which essentially means that you can go into any credit union branch that is part of the co-op network and conduct a transaction as if it were your own credit union.
Credit unions offer personalized service because members are owners and are the reason behind everything a credit union does. At OCCU, our goal is to be your lifelong financial partner. We want to help you make healthy, long-term financial decisions. To do that, we ask questions. We listen. In 2015 alone, OCCU helped 495 members modify their loan terms. We suggest products and services that meet your needs. Then, we fill those needs with a full range of savings and checking accounts, direct deposit, auto loans, mortgages, certificate accounts, investment services (through LPL Financial*), and more.
Safety of your funds
Both credit unions and banks are committed to securing your money. Credit unions and banks are supervised, regulated, and insured by federal agencies – credit unions by the National Credit Union Administration and banks by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Selecting a financial institution is an important decision. Choose a financial institution that will partner with you that will offer you the service and value you deserve. We're confident a credit union will be just that partner for you.