If you are Googling “credit unions near me” or researching the benefits of being a credit union member, then you are probably ready to trade the experience of a traditional bank for a different kind of banking. Certainly, there are substantial benefits to joining a credit union that you often won’t find with larger, corporate-owned banks. In this post, we will outline some of those benefits, along with the steps you should take if you are interested in joining a credit union for your future banking needs.
What Is a Credit Union?
Before we delve into the nitty-gritty details of how to join a credit union, let’s have a quick refresher on the characteristics that define a credit union. What is a credit union, exactly? And how is it different from a traditional bank? Knowing and thoroughly understanding the answers to these questions is essential as you try to decide where you want to do your banking going forward.
Credit unions, by and large, offer the same functions and services as any bank. Checking accounts, savings accounts, and loans (for mortgage, auto, personal, or business purposes) are all available through credit unions. What sets credit unions apart from corporate banks is that credit unions are member-owned. Instead of there being corporate shareholders, each member owns a stake in the credit union. This model means that all members get to share in the profits of the credit union, which typically manifest in the form of lower fees, lower interest rates on loans, and higher interest rates on savings accounts. Where corporate banks are essentially “serving two masters”—their shareholders first and their customers second—credit unions get to focus exclusively on offering the best services to their members.
There is also a community feel to credit unions. Part of that is that credit unions are usually local. Instead of being nationwide organizations with branches everywhere, most credit unions serve a specific community or region. This factor gives the members something in common, which creates more of a feeling of union. This system also means that the money one member deposits in a checking or savings account can help another member in their community get a mortgage or secure a business loan. There is a feeling in credit unions of everyone working together toward a mutual goal of financial security and prosperity. The same feeling is difficult to attain in banks—partially because of size, and partially because shareholder interests take precedence over customer interests.
How to Join a Credit Union
Are you wondering how to join a union and take advantage of the numerous benefits discussed above? The steps below outline the typical process for becoming part of a credit union community.
- Look for a credit union near you: As mentioned above, most credit unions serve specific regions or communities. In other words, you aren’t going to be looking to join a credit union in Michigan if you live in Texas, unless the credit union has branches in both locations. Start by typing “credit unions near me” into Google and see what you find. You might also ask friends, neighbors, or co-workers if they can recommend a credit union in your area.
- Review the eligibility requirement: Credit unions have eligibility requirement that every member must meet in order to join. These eligibility requirements are often referred to as “field of membership” in the credit union world. The idea is that every member at the credit union will have something in common with another credit union member. Usually, that commonality is that they live in the same geographic area. Sometimes, businesses or employers have relationships with credit unions, giving all their employees eligibility to join that credit union. Every credit union’s eligibility requirements are a bit different, so make sure you meet the benchmarks before going any further in trying to join a specific credit union.
- Apply to join: If you have found a credit union you like and believe you meet the eligibility requirements, the next step is to fill out an application to become a member. Usually, you can find the application form on the credit union website. For instance, at Resource One Credit Union, we have an intuitive online application system where prospective members can select the type of account they want and then work through the application at their own pace. Of course, you might want to learn more about a credit union before you apply or sit down with a credit union representative and have a face-to-face conversation before deciding to join. If you’d prefer an in-person visit, you can always go to the nearest credit union branch to apply.
- Make the minimum deposit: All credit union accounts will have a minimum deposit requirement that you need to meet to open your account. For example, the minimum opening deposit for a personal savings account at Resource One Credit Union is $25. Members must maintain at least this balance to keep their membership open. Be sure to understand these requirements to avoid any problems with your account or your credit union membership in the future.
- Start using your account: Once you’ve met all the eligibility requirements, received membership approval, and made your opening deposit, you can start using your account and all the credit union privileges that come with it. At Resource One, those privileges include intuitive digital banking features, numerous member benefits offers, refer-a-friend bonuses, and more. We want to make you feel welcome and as if you are truly part of a community—something you can expect at virtually any credit union you might choose to join. Therein lies one of the big differences between credit unions and traditional banks.
Now that you know how to join a credit union, are you ready to apply for membership with Resource One Credit Union? We’d love to have you as part of the family. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.