As the Content Specialist and author of the Learning & Guidance Center, Yanna enjoys motivating others by uncovering all that's possible in the world of finance. From financial tips and tricks to ultimate guides and comparison charts, she is obsessed with finding ways to help readers excel in their journey towards financial freedom.
It’s no surprise credit unions often get overlooked. Many people believe all credit unions are ridiculously strict with membership requirements or that you can’t even step into a credit union unless you’re a member.
With all of these misconceptions about credit unions, many don’t even know the real reason why credit unions exist and what membership entails.
There are credit unions for people based on their employer, but there are also credit unions where anyone can join as long as they meet certain requirements. These requirements might be who you’re employed with, the family member who already established an account at the credit union, your geographic location, or if you're part of a certain association or group.
If you're curious about credit union membership, I'll be able to share exactly what you'll need to know from opening an account, how to qualify for the field of membership, the benefits members get once becoming a shareholder, and how to find a credit union for you!
what’s the deal about having to ‘join’ or ‘become a member?’
Simply put, there are two types of credit unions – Select Employer Group (SEG) Based and Community Charters:
SEG BASED CREDIT UNIONS
SEG-based credit unions are meant for select employee groups. Only employees of specific companies and industries can utilize the credit union’s services, making it a members-only financial institution.
COMMUNITY CHARTER CREDIT UNIONS
Simply put, it means anyone can become a member! If you live, work, go to church, or attend school in the local community, a neighborhood where customers have a common interest, then you can become a member.
how are credit unions different than banks?
Credit unions are not-for-profit organizations that exist to serve their customers, not maximize corporate profits. When you join a credit union, your opening deposit makes you an owner in the organization. That’s just a fancy way of saying you own a piece of the credit union.
As a member, your vote counts, and the credit union is only looking for ways to earn you money rather than shareholders like banks.
how do credit unions work?
Credit unions are financial institutions that offer products and services to people who meet certain requirements. Once you find a credit union you’re interested in joining, the account opening process is easy - similar to opening an account at the bank.
Account opening starts with a basic savings account (also referred to as a "share account"). This account makes you a share-holder, meaning you're now part-owner of the credit union!
QUICK TIP: If you’re simply looking to get a loan at a credit union, you do still have to become a member by opening a share account.
does it cost to be a member?
To open a share account costs anywhere from $5-$25, depending on the credit union. However, there isn't truly a membership fee since you'll get that deposit back if you ever choose to close your account.
You can find this information out by directly contacting the credit union or checking their website for additional fees to process at account opening.
how are members part owners of the credit union?
As a shareholder, you’re part-owner of the credit union meaning you:
Have a say on how your credit union is run - Every member gets voting power to elect a volunteer board of directors that controls the direction of the credit union. This helps ensure the credit union acts in the best interest of its members.
Get to enjoy profits that are returned to you – Since credit unions operate to serve their members, any money that the credit union makes is returned to the member in the form of fewer fees, lower interest rates on loans, higher returns on savings, and more. When the credit union profits, the member’s profit as well.
Personalized customer service – Credit unions strive to meet their member’s needs individually, this includes quality human interaction. When you walk into a credit union, you are remembered by name and not an account number. In addition, personal customer service also includes forms of training and counseling to help members on their journey to financial well-being.
Free checking account - Most credit unions offer free checking accounts to help members build on their financial goals.
Other financial service offerings - Credit unions genuinely care about their members’ financial well-being and will often provide other services like financial education, coaching, and counseling.
is a credit union a safe place for members’ money?
Sure is! Like Charlotte Metro, credit unions are regulated by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and federally insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF). The NCUSIF is backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. And, like the FDIC, the NCUSIF insures each depositor up to $250,000.
Many credit unions - including Charlotte Metro - take this one step further. For those customers with higher deposits, Charlotte Metro has an additional $250,000 deposit insurance through Excess Share Insurance Corporation (ESI). This means your deposits are insured up to $500,000 at no additional cost to you.
how can i join a credit union?
It's not much to it, really. You can simply search for local credit unions in your neighborhood, contact your employer's HR department to learn if a credit union sponsors them, or you try the Credit Union Locator to help with your search.
Once you find a credit union you like, check their field of membership. This will help ensure you're meeting that credit union's requirements to join.
QUICK TIP: Once a member, always a member! So if you no longer meet the requirements, that’s ok. As long as you still have an account at the credit union, you’re a member for life.
can i open an account with charlotte metro?
We sure hope so! There's a good chance you either live in an area or work for an employer that qualifies you for a Charlotte Metro membership. If not – no worries! You're eligible to join via our partner association – Carolinas Credit Union League. The best part? It's at no cost or obligation to you. Open your account today!
are you happy with where you bank? take advantage by joining a credit union
Remember, credit unions are not-for-profit organizations that serve you. They are member-owned and operate to promote the well-being of their members. Any profits made by the credit union are returned to the member.
Looking for other credit unions to join, but you don't know where to start? Visit ncua.gov to find their credit union locator and join your local credit union today!
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