What’s the Difference Between a Credit Union and a Bank?


What’s the Difference Between a Credit Union and a Bank? 

When it comes to managing your finances, there are options beyond traditional banks—credit unions. Credit unions are financial institutions that offer similar services but operate differently than banks. Curious if a credit union might be right for you? Understanding the differences between credit unions and banks can help you make an informed choice based on your financial needs and goals.  



  • Credit Unions Are Owned by the Members 

One of the main differences between credit unions and banks is who owns them. Banks are typically for-profit entities owned by shareholders who expect to earn dividends. Credit unions, on the other hand, are not-for-profit, member-owned cooperatives that are committed to the financial success of the individuals, families, and communities they serve. This cooperative structure means that credit union members are also owners who have a say in how the credit union operates, and any profits generated are reinvested into the credit union or returned to the members in the form of lower fees or better interest rates. 


  • Credit Unions Have Membership Requirements 

While banks are open to the general public, credit unions have membership requirements that help them provide personalized, community-oriented financial services. To join a credit union, you usually need to meet certain eligibility criteria, such as living or working in a specific geographical area, belonging to a certain profession or organization, or being a family member of an existing member. These membership requirements help the credit union foster a sense of community among members, maintain ownership and control, manage risk, offer tailored services, and ensure financial stability.  


  • Credit Unions Offer Personalized Service 

Credit unions focus on member satisfaction. As member-owned organizations, they tend to prioritize their members' needs and provide more personalized service. Credit unions often offer highly competitive interest rates on loans and savings accounts, along with more flexible lending criteria. They may also offer financial education and counseling services to assist their members in making sound financial decisions. While credit unions may have fewer branches, many offer 24/7 Digital and Mobile Banking and are part of a larger CO-OP network of branches and ATMs that allow you to bank nationwide. 


  • Credit Unions Offer Competitive Products 

Both credit unions and banks offer a range of financial products and services, including checking accounts, savings accounts, loans, mortgages, and credit cards. However, there can be variations in the specific offerings and terms. Credit unions often provide lower fees and competitive interest rates on products like high yield checking, loans, and credit cards due to their not-for-profit status.  


  • Credit Unions Are Regulated by the NCUA 

Credit unions and banks are regulated by different entities. Banks are typically regulated by federal agencies such as the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), Federal Reserve, or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Credit unions are regulated by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), a federal agency that supervises and insures credit unions. The NCUA provides similar deposit insurance as the FDIC, ensuring that members' deposits are protected up to a certain limit. This helps ensure that members’ money is safe. 


Understanding the differences between banks and credit unions can help you choose the financial institution that aligns best with your needs, preferences, and financial goals. While credit unions and banks offer similar services, credit unions offer a member-focused approach that may be a better fit for you on your financial journey.


Keep Reading

Credit Union 1 has expert answers for your personal finance questions and timely tips on the latest money topics. Discover the latest posts on everything from paying down debt to refinancing loans.

More Articles

High Yield Checking

Earn up to 5.25% APY1 with CU1 High Yield Checking. Each month, when you use a High Yield Checking account for common banking transactions, you can earn dividends at our highly competitive rate. Open an account in minutes and start watching your balance grow.

Get Started

Credit Union 1 is celebrating 65 years of helping individuals, families and communities reach their financial goals.