Maybe you would have joined one a long time ago, except you didn’t know how to become a member. If you’ve been wondering whether just anyone can join a credit union, the answer is yes! Even though you can’t join a credit union unless you meet eligibility requirements, there are so many types and locations for credit unions that you’re sure qualify for at least one.
Credit Unions Versus Banks
Credit Unions are much different than banks. One of the biggest differences (also one of the greatest advantages) is their not-for-profit status. While banks strive for increasing revenue that goes to shareholders, credit union members are also part owners and share profits. After overhead and administrative expenses are addressed, extra earnings are returned to members in the form of dividends.
Of course, another glaring difference between these two financial institutions is while any Joe Schmo can walk into a bank and open an account, consumers cannot enjoy the benefits their local credit union has to offer unless they are granted membership.
Credit Union Membership
You can’t pick any credit union you like and join. Membership to a particular credit union is limited by certain characteristics. They have a “field of membership,” which includes the parameters that determine membership eligibility. According to CreditUnionsWork.org, the field of membership can include:
- Geographic area
- Place of worship
- Fraternal organization
Why Do Credit Unions Have Membership Requirements
The point of a credit union is to better serve a group of people that all share something in common. For example, a community credit union helps people who live in a certain area save money, get better loan rates and generally seeks to improve their lives financially. The same is true of a company, church or other organization.
This is why you have to be a member – everyone should share common goals and work together to achieve them.
How to Find a Credit Union to Join
The Credit Union National Association lists several ways you can find out about credit unions near you that you’re eligible to join. Here are their recommendations for the people you can ask about membership opportunities:
- League Representative: A state league representative can tell you which credit unions in your neighborhood you’re eligible to join.
- Employer: Find out if the company you work for sponsors a credit union or is a select employee group (SEG) with access to a credit union.
- Family: Family members of credit union members are usually also eligible to join.
- Neighbors: While many credit unions offer membership based on employment or other association, others are open to a geographical location.
- Credit Union National Association: A call to the organization can put you in touch with someone who can help you find an appropriate credit union.