Credit Unions & Banks: What’s the Difference?
When you’re searching for a financial institution, you’ll have many options, including credit unions and banks. And while both credit unions and banks let you do your banking, there are major differences between how these financial institutions are organized, owned, and operated.
Credit unions are not-for-profit organizations owned by their members. Unlike banks, credit unions don’t have pressure to make a profit for their investors. Instead, credit unions work to lower fees and make banking accessible to the local community.
Credit unions offer most of the same products banks do, though typically not as many commercial banking products. However, because credit unions are member-owned, the members have a say in the organization’s policies and decisions, which isn’t an option at banks.
At credit unions, you’ll likely find:
- Higher interest rates for savings accounts than their bank counterparts, and
- Lower interest rates on products such as mortgages and auto loans.
- Fewer fees at credit unions as well, and credit unions tend to be more flexible on member needs than nationally run banking brands.
Credit unions are made to serve people with a common bond, so membership can be usually determined by job type, geography, attendance at a school or religious organization, and more.
A+ Tip: There are many ways to qualify to be a member at Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union.
Banks are for-profit organizations owned by investors. Since banks, especially national brands, tend to be larger financial institutions than credit unions, they can offer many branches and products across regions and even the country.
Banks are no longer just brick-and-mortar institutions – there are also online banks without physical locations. When you join a bank, you’re a customer, so anyone is allowed to sign up for accounts and services.
At banks, you’ll likely find:
- Higher interest rates on loans, due to the for-profit model. The same goes for
- More fees, including those for mistakes, like bouncing a check.
- Minimum balance requirements for products such as checking accounts.
Banks typically have the resources to provide products and services to customers living most places, and can offer more branch locations and ATMs than smaller credit unions.
Banking, Your Way
Be sure to check out all of your options when you’re searching for a place to do your banking, and have your goals in mind. Banks and credit unions come in all sizes, and can offer various products, depending on where you live. The right choice is what’s best for you and what you’d like to achieve with your banking.