Credit Unions Vs Traditional Banks

Credit unions are becoming more and more popular for people seeking a place to stash their cash. Although you have to qualify to join a credit union, their accessibility is growing. They're typically based around a specific market-employer or church, for example. But today, many have extended their membership to include residents of a specific city or town plus family members.

One of the most significant advantages credit unions have over traditional banks is that, historically, they can offer better rates and fewer fees because of their not-for-profit status. They don't need to inflate the rates to satisfy investors. It includes everything from CD's and money market accounts to credit cards and loans. As you may already know, this translates into more money in your pocket!

Take a quick look at some of the major differences:

Credit Unions

· Serve members, not customers. Only members may deposit money or borrow money.

· Owned and controlled by members. A board of directors is elected by and from the membership.

· Not-for-profit-after expenses are paid, any surplus money is returned to members in the form of higher dividends, lower interest rates, and free or low-cost services.

· Most are insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF) and managed by the National Credit Union Administration, which is a government agency.

* Serve groups that share common interests, such as where they work, live, or go to church. They're part of a worldwide support network to share ideas, information, and resources.

Traditional Banks

* Serve customers in the general public

* Owned by stockholders who expect a certain return on investment. Only investors have a vote and authority in running the bank.

* Only investors get a share of profits.

* Insured by the federal government, through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC)

* There are state and national organizations for banks, but typically, they don't share information or resources.

Some of the pitfalls of "banking" at a credit union include: limited ATM networks and possible smaller range of products. For example, not all credit unions offer on-line bill pay. As with any financial decision, it's up to the consumer to weigh the pros and cons to make the best decision based on personal circumstances.

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