Commentary by Victoria Gillespie
For more than 100 years, credit unions have been helping people achieve their dreams. Whether it’s to help them buy a home, buy a car or send their child to college, credit unions return what they earn to their members in the form of lower rates on loans, higher rates on savings and fewer service fees.
Today, especially during these volatile economic times, credit unions are viewed as both safe and strong financial institutions. In the past year alone, the credit union industry added more than 2 million new members (customers) and surpassed $1 trillion in assets. Consumers are choosing credit unions because of their cooperative business model and philosophy. As member-owned, not-for-profit cooperatives, credit unions exist to benefit members (not stockholders.) In other words, they are designed to put people over profit. In addition, credit unions are known for delivering warm “family-like” customer service to their member base.
Credit unions differ from commercial banks in that they do not issue stock or pay dividends to outside stockholders. Earnings are returned directly to members in the form of lower loan rates, higher interest on deposits and fewer fees. Credit unions also typically have low or no minimum account balance requirements, making their accounts both more attractive and cost-effective than those offered by banks.
Funds on deposit at both commercial banks and credit unions are federally insured. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF) provide individual depositors with deposit insurance up to $250,000 backed by the full faith and credit of the United State Government (same insurance, different agencies). The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) is an independent federal agency that oversees credit unions and insures accounts in federal and most state-chartered credit unions across the country through NCUSIF.
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