Are credit unions a good thing?
The Bottom Line
Limited accessibility. Credit unions tend to have fewer branches than traditional banks. A credit union may not be close to where you live or work, which could be a problem unless your credit union is part of a shared branch network and/or a large ATM network such as Allpoint or MoneyPass.
Higher returns, better savings, low interest on borrowings, and a sense of community – these are just a few of the benefits of credit union membership.
Generally, credit unions are viewed as safer than banks, although deposits at both types of financial institutions are usually insured at the same dollar amounts. The FDIC insures deposits at most banks, and the NCUA insures deposits at most credit unions.
However, because credit unions serve mostly individuals and small businesses (rather than large investors) and are known to take fewer risks, credit unions are generally viewed as safer than banks in the event of a collapse. Regardless, both types of financial institutions are equally protected.
Cons of credit unions
Limited access: Credit unions usually serve a specific community or region, resulting in fewer branches and ATM access. Fewer product options: While credit unions offer many of the same products as banks, you may not have as many options for each as you would with a bank.
While joining a credit union likely won't affect your credit score in and of itself, some of the financial products offered by credit unions can have an impact on your score.
Credit unions operate to promote the well-being of their members. Profits made by credit unions are returned back to members in the form of reduced fees, higher savings rates and lower loan rates.
While the individual options may differ from one to the next, most credit unions offer custom loan programs designed to help borrowers establish credit for the first time or rebuild damaged credit. Some credit unions use aptly-named “credit builder loans” that function much like secured credit cards.
Personalized customer service
Since credit unions are not-for-profit institutions, they can focus on helping members with their individual financial needs. Some credit unions also provide training and counseling to help members understand complex financial matters.
Should I move all my money to a credit union?
What Are the Major Advantages of Credit Unions? Credit unions typically offer lower closing costs for home mortgage loans, and lower rates for lending, particularly with credit card and auto loan interest rates. They also have generally lower fees and higher savings rates for CDs and money market accounts.
Like banks, which are federally insured by the FDIC, credit unions are insured by the NCUA, making them just as safe as banks. The National Credit Union Administration is a US government agency that regulates and supervises credit unions.
If a credit union is placed into liquidation, the NCUA's Asset Management and Assistance Center (AMAC) will oversee the liquidation and set up an asset management estate (AME) to manage assets, settle members' insurance claims, and attempt to recover value from the closed credit union's assets.
Experts told us that credit unions do fail, like banks (which are also generally safe), but rarely. And deposits up to $250,000 at federally insured credit unions are guaranteed, just as they are at banks.
Yes. Generally speaking, credit unions are safer than banks in a collapse. This is because credit unions use fewer risks, serving individuals and small businesses rather than large investors, like a bank.
Nationally, two have gone under already in 2023, and on average seven failed in each of the prior five years, according to data compiled by the National Credit Union Administration, a federal agency akin to the FDIC or Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Liquidity Risk: The risk of not having sufficient liquid assets to meet the credit union's short-term obligations, which could impact its ability to function effectively and serve its members. Interest Rate Risk: Credit unions often have a significant portion of their assets and liabilities tied to interest rates.
The number of federally insured credit unions declined to 4,712 in the first quarter of 2023, from 4,903 in the first quarter of 2022.
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Hard Credit Checks
A bank or credit union may make a soft inquiry on your credit when you open a new checking account to check for a history of fraud. These soft checks do not affect your credit score. However, in some cases, a bank may perform a hard credit check, which does affect your credit score.
Is it harder to get a credit card at a credit union?
You need a credit score of 700+ to get a credit card from most credit unions, though some credit unions have options available for people with bad credit or no credit history. There are credit union cards for every credit level, and some of the best credit union cards are only available to people with excellent credit.
Any income the credit union generates through interest, fees and loans is then used to fund community projects, reinvest into the organization or provide services that directly benefit members, like paying higher savings interest rates.
The main benefits of a credit union vs. a bank are that credit unions tend to offer better rates and customer service, lower fees, and a national network of ATMs. However, a bank may offer more branches and products than a credit union.
Credit unions are owned by their members, so members are usually the focus of the institution. This means that credit unions are generally known for providing better customer service than banks. Nonprofit structure means better rates and lower fees.
Predatory lending is any lending practice that imposes unfair and abusive loan terms on borrowers, including high-interest rates, high fees, and terms that strip the borrower of equity. Predatory lenders often use aggressive sales tactics and deception to get borrowers to take out loans they can't afford.