The credit union movement began with a simple idea – that people could achieve a better standard of living for themselves and others by pooling their savings and making loans to neighbors and co-workers.
- 1844 — Rochdale, England — workers and weavers create a democratic consumer cooperative establishing the credit union principles used today.
- 1849 — Germany — Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch, a lawyer, establishes a credit society to help shopkeepers and urban workers find relief from loan sharks. Friedrich Raiffeisen, considered the German founder of credit cooperatives, also actively works to ensure better financial services for the working class.
- 1901 — Levis, Quebec, Canada – First North American credit union established.
- 1909 — Manchester, New Hampshire – First U.S. credit union established.
- 1921 — Boston, Massachusetts – Edward A. Filene, a wealthy merchant considered the "father of U.S. credit unions," and Roy F. Bergengren, a lawyer, organize the Credit Union National Extension Bureau, with goals to enact credit union laws and form credit unions. Filene's ideas stemmed in part from a 1907 visit to India where he observed a system of agricultural cooperatives.
- 1934 — Washington, D.C. – President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signs the Federal Credit Union Act into law – passed in large part due to Texas Senator Morris Sheppard and Texas Congressman Wright Patman. A service organization, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), forms to provide insurance, auditing, and supplies to credit unions.
- 1967 — Washington, D.C. – the National Association of Federal Credit Unions (NAFCU) is established to protect the Federal Credit Unions' interests in the nation's capital.
- 1970 — The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) forms to oversee Federal Credit Unions. The Federal Credit Union Act is amended to authorize federal insurance for members' savings accounts.
- 1980 — Deregulation in the financial services industry creates new product offerings like share drafts (also known as checking accounts) and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). Plus, a rate ceiling on savings accounts is removed.
- 1982 — NCUA interprets the Federal Credit Union Act to allow individual select employee groups to join a credit union, as long as members in each group share a common bond (i.e. manufacturing, high-tech, education, etc.).
- 1990 — In conjunction with four North Carolina banks, the American Bankers Association (ABA) files suit against NCUA and the AT&T Family Federal Credit Union over the 1982 interpretation of the Federal Credit Union Act. Bankers are concerned with the authorization to allow select employee groups to join AT&T Family Federal Credit Union who are unrelated to the original credit union sponsor and don't necessarily share that common bond. The bankers appeal the lower court ruling that favored credit unions.
- 1996 — Following an adverse ruling from the District of Columbia Federal Appeals Court, an injunction is issued prohibiting federal credit unions from taking in members unrelated to their "core" membership group and common bond. This ruling is appealed to the Supreme Court and a partial stay is issued permitting members to sign-up in existing "unrelated" employee groups, but prohibits new employee groups to be added.
- 1998 — On February 25, in a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court rules against
consumer choice by upholding the Appeals Court decision. The Supreme Court
rules that banks have a stand in suing NCUA.
On March 26, the House of Representatives Banking Committee unanimously passes HR 1151, the Credit Union Membership Access Act, which protects consumers' rights to join credit unions.
On April 1, the full House passes HR 1151 by a vote of 411-8.On July 28, the U.S. Senate's version passes with a vote of 92-6 culminating in a rewrite of the 1934 Federal Credit Union Act.
On August 7, President Bill Clinton signs the Credit Union Membership Access Act into law, giving federal credit unions the authority to add select employee groups with 3,000 or less employee/members, even if they don't have a relationship with a credit union's original sponsor.