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How to Find a Credit Union

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Credit Unions kick ass.

If you found yourself complaining about the “Too Big To Fail Banks” and still have your money at one of the TBTF banks, then you, my friend, have lost the right to complain. If you want to remedy that, or if you simply want better rates, then a credit union is a fantastic almost-perfect substitute for a commercial bank.

The key difference between a credit union and a commercial bank is that the depositors and borrowers of a credit union are its shareholders. With a commercial bank, the shareholders are the owners of its public stock or investors in the corporation. When the credit union counts you as a shareholder, it gives you better rates on your deposits (high yield savings accounts may still offer higher rates) and better rates on your loans. Finally, credit unions are NCUA insured up to $250,000, just like commercial banks and the FDIC, so your money is safe.

The main trade off is that credit unions are smaller and so they lack the enormous geographic footprint of much larger banks.

So how do you find a good credit union?

Credit unions are required by law, the Federal Credit Union Act, to limit membership. The membership is generally limited to an association, such as your workplace, or a geographic region, a county or municipality.

Places to look:

  • Workplace: If your workplace is large enough, you may be able to find a credit union associated with your job. The credit union may service multiple employers, in order to get membership rolls up, but large employers may have their own. My former employer, Northrop Grumman Corporation, had its own namesake credit union.
  • Local Credit Union: Think about the last time you were driving around your local area, did you see any credit union branches? I often pass by a Tower Federal Credit Union, which services several counties in Maryland, and they are one that can offer membership based on where you live.
  • Search NCUA: If all else fails, you can use the NCUA’s Find a Credit Union search feature to locate one nearby. You can also use it to confirm that that a credit union is NCUA insured (Tower Federal Credit Union is charter number 8333 and it is Federally Insured).

Have you moved your funds to a credit union lately?

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12 Responses to “How to Find a Credit Union”

  1. billsnider says:

    I am and have always been a big fan of credit unions.

    I just want to add one point. Before rushing in, check the status of the bank at http://www.bauerfinancial.com. Could save you problems later on.

    Bill Snider

  2. mannymacho says:

    You can also see if any clubs/professional associations you belong to make you eligible for credit union membership, or even religious affiliation!

  3. Rob C says:

    Banks are businesses and see you as a way to make money. Credit Unions are like a family, they watch out for you! I’ll be a Credit Union member for life!

  4. zapeta says:

    I’ve had an account at a local credit union for almost 20 years. Its usually pretty easy to find a local credit union with a little googling or even with the old fashioned phone book. If you’re using a “too big to fail” bank, you’re missing out on the lower fees and better service that you can typically get from a credit union.

  5. qixx says:

    I use both a bank and a credit union. I find that with some products i do better at a small (regional – not large national) bank than a credit union. Business loans and accounts seem to do better at banks around here. Car loans are better at credit unions. I also use an online bank for specific savings goals.

    One consideration that could make the difference between one credit union and another is ease of access. Things such as online access (including mint.com if you use it) might sway you to one location or another.

  6. govenar says:

    Credit unions might be better than too-big-to-fail banks, but compared to smaller banks or online banks they still don’t seem very good in general (at least for interest rates on deposits).

    • Shirley says:

      You are absolutely right (at least in our case) but having been a member of our local CU for 48 years, I appreciate the quick and easy personal service they provide. While they maintain only a very small portion of our financial assets, I can’t think of anything that I would ever be denied… other than a decent rate of interest. ;-)

  7. Strebkr says:

    I know the credit unions are there, but I jst can’t seem to break away from Chase. They really do have me by the ****s. I guess I don’t care, but thats because I don’t pay any fees. Its hard to follow up on what they are doing to keep from paying fees, but its worth the effort.

  8. skylog says:

    i have looked into credit unions in the past, and while they do have certain advantages, moving my accounts just did not seem worth the trouble. perhaps if was in the market for some other products they would be more attractive to me.

  9. Alex Hung says:

    Credit unions are always better than the big commercial banks majorly owing to the better interest rates given to its account holders. The suggestions to find a right credit union holds good here in my opinion. Thanks

  10. Robert says:

    I used to belong to a CU many years ago. I’m now a BOA account holder. would like to find a CU. But to be honest I have no real problem with BOA I pay nothing for my checking acct and always use network ATMs (so many around) I didn’t think I could join a CU cause I have no affiliation through a job or anything. Will check out some of these links and see if I can find one


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