LSCU COOP / About / About Credit Unions

About Credit Unions

What is a Credit Union?
A credit union is a member-owned, not-for-profit financial cooperative financial institution owned and operated by its members. These members, who are united by a common bond of association, democratically operate the credit union under state and federal regulation. There are more than 7,600 credit unions in the United States, serving more than 93 million members.

What are the Benefits of Credit Union Membership?
Credit unions exist solely for the purpose of meeting the financial needs of their member-owners. To that end, credit unions not only provide outstanding personal service, but members often earn higher returns on their savings while paying lower rates for loans. Each year, credit unions consistently outshine other financial institutions and S&Ls in the area of consumer/member satisfaction. Credit unions are based on a one-member, one-vote structure, thus giving members the power to direct credit union policy in an effort to meet member needs. This structure is vastly different from the for-profit sector where stockholders vote according to the number of shares of stock they own. Their non-profit status enables credit unions to operate at a lower cost than many for-profit institutions and helps them to offer competitive loan and savings rates. For instance, credit unions usually charge lower interest on credit cards than most other providers, and many credit unions charge no annual card fee.

Who Can Join a Credit Union?
Credit union members generally share a common bond such as occupation (same employment or line of work), residence (live or work in the same area), association (same church, professional, civic or fraternal group or belong to a particular labor union) and family (membership is extended to any member's immediate family). Federal and state credit union laws restrict credit unions to serving only the groups specified in their charters. The group or groups served by a credit union are referred to as its field of membership (FOM). In recent years, a broader interpretation of common bond has enabled credit unions to extend their services to more consumers. To find a credit union in your area, click here.

What Makes Credit Unions Unique?
The biggest difference between credit unions and other financial institutions is that the members are the owners. Credit unions exist solely to serve their member-owners, who are the only depositors. The benefits of ownership are returned to the member in the form of lower loan rates, higher dividends on savings and personal service.

What Services Do Credit Unions Offer?
Credit unions offer a wide array of services each designed to meet the particular needs of that credit unions member-owners. They can range from a "plain vanilla" credit union that only offers shares (deposits) and loans, to a full-service credit union that serves as its members' primary financial institution. Some credit unions also offer certificates of deposit, financial planning, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), mutual funds, new and used auto loans, signature loans, home equity loans, home mortgage loans, small business loans, share drafts (checking accounts), credit cards and ATM and debit cards