The Credit Union Advantage

What is a credit union, and what makes it different from a bank?


How are credit unions different from banks?

Credit unions ...

Banks ...

Eligibility + -

Credit unions ...

... cannot serve the general public; instead people must qualify for membership. Membership eligibility can be based on where you work, worship, live, or go to school. If you’re a member of other social groups or organizations, that may qualify you for membership too!

Banks ...

… let anyone become a customer.

Ownership + -

Credit unions ...

... are member-owned. Every member is equal, regardless of financial investment, and carries one vote in the democratic processes that guide the credit union.

Banks ...

... are owned by shareholders. The more shares you can purchase, the more of the bank you can own, and the more influence you have.

Your Role + -

Credit unions ...

… allow their members to vote on how the credit union is run. If you have an account at a credit union, you have a share in it.

Banks ...

… don’t allow their customers to have a say in how the bank is run.

Profit + -

Credit unions ...

... are not-for-profit cooperatives. Earnings are returned to their members — anyone with a share account — in the form of lower interest rates on loans and higher interest rates on deposit accounts.

Banks ...

... are for-profit. A bank’s earnings are distributed to its executives and those who own shares or stock in the company. Customers rarely see the effects of profit.

Boards + -

Credit unions ...

... are governed by boards of directors. Board members set the policies and govern the affairs of the credit union. More importantly, they are elected from the membership, and they are volunteers who receive no compensation for their work.

Banks ...

... are run by paid board members or executives who are hired, often from outside the organization and even from outside the banking clientele.

Safety + -

Credit unions ...

... are insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).

Banks ...

… are insured up to $250,000 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

Access + -

Credit unions ...

... tend to be local and have fewer branches, but thanks to ATM network sharing, you can use in-network ATMs free of charge at other credit unions and convenience stores.

Banks ...

… are present in most major cities, but if you need to use another bank’s ATM, get ready to pay a higher service charge.

What gives credit unions an advantage over banks?

People having a meeting

Volunteer boards

Every credit union is governed by a board of directors, elected by and from the credit union’s membership. Board members serve voluntarily and receive no compensation.

Hand choosing between checkbox options


Credit unions are a democracy. Each credit union member has equal ownership and one vote, regardless of how much money they have on deposit.

Dollar sign with circle around it and line through it

Not for profit

Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives. We exist to serve our members, not to make money, so credit unions do not issue stock or pay dividends to outside shareholders. Instead, we return our earnings to members by providing lower loan rates, paying higher dividends on deposits, and charging lower fees.

Paper check and car

Products and services

Although they vary in size, most credit unions offer the same products and services you’ll see at a big bank — low and no-cost savings and checking accounts, auto and vehicle loans, mortgages, credit cards, business loans, online banking and mobile apps — often with better rates and lower fees!

Graduation cap sitting on a book

Financial education

Credit unions provide educational resources to their members to help them be better informed when making financial decisions. We not only focus on our adult members, but work to give our youth and young adults the skills they need to become financially savvy.

Two hands high-fiving each other

‘People helping people’ philosophy

Credit unions are focused on the common goal of providing quality financial services based on a foundation of financial strength and integrity. The philosophy of “people helping people” extends to our employees who become involved in many charitable activities that benefit the community.

Separating Fact from Fiction: 4 Credit Union Myths

Some people mistakenly believe that credit unions are limited, compared to big banks. Even though there are over 5,000 credit unions in the United States, misconceptions about their structure and services still exist. We address four persistent credit union myths below.


Myth #1: “Credit unions are basically banks with fewer services”

Reality: Credit unions offer all the same services as big banks: credit, debit, savings, loans and more. Thanks to innovations in online banking, financial institutions can be big on service — even when they’re small in size.

It pays to be a member. As a member, you own a share of your credit union and share in its success through better interest rates and fewer fees.


Myth #2: “It’s harder to access your money when you bank at a credit union”

Reality: Credit unions form a nationwide ATM network to increase accessibility to your finances. Online banking features and top customer service add to the convenience.


Myth #3: “Credit union deposits aren’t insured”

Reality: Credit union deposits are insured — they have a federal or state insurance fund that keeps your money safe.

Did you know? Deposits at all federal credit unions and most state-chartered credit unions are covered by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF).


Myth #4: “It’s too hard to switch to a credit union”

Reality: Making the switch from a bank to a credit union is easier than you might think. Some credit unions even offer “switch kits,” which contain all of the paperwork — including direct deposit and bill pay — you need in one convenient package.

Making the switch: Follow these steps to ensure a smooth transition

Check your eligibility.

Some credit unions require you to live within a certain area or be connected to a certain industry.
Learn more about membership

Fill out some forms.

Reach out to your credit union to see if they have a switch kit, or for additional guidance.
Join RBFCU online

Transfer your funds.

Don’t forget to update your direct deposit information, your automatic debits and your online payments.
Learn how to Move Money

Close your previous account.

Once you are sure all of your banking information has been updated, close your old account.


The 7 Cooperative Principles:
How do they shape my credit union experience?

Credit unions put their values into practice by following these 7 co-operative principles. This sets credit unions apart from all other financial institutions, strengthens the community and benefits you too!

Number 1 with clipboard

Membership available to all who are eligible

What it means to you: No matter what your financial situation looks like, the door is open, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

Number 2 with I Voted button

Democratic member control

What it means to you: You help call the shots by electing a board of directors. One member equals one vote. This is local democracy in action.

Number 3 with coin

Member economic participation

What it means to you: Better rates, lower fees and services that benefit the entire credit union. The more that members participate, the more there is to go around.

Number 4 with thumbs up

Autonomy and independence

What it means to you: As a financial cooperative, your credit union is controlled by real members like you, instead of outside shareholders.

Number 5 with graduation cap

Education, training and information

What it means to you: Access to financial literacy tools and resources. Credit unions believe that education contributes to personal growth.

Number 6 with heart with arrows circling around it

Cooperation among cooperatives

What it means to you: Your credit union strengthens the cooperative movement by partnering with organizations that share the same important values.

Number 7 with houses

Concern for community

What it means to you: Knowing that your day-to-day banking translates into benefits for charities, local businesses and the entire community.

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