What Is a Credit Union?

A credit union is a non-profit financial organization that is owned and regulated by its members through a representative electoral board of directors nominated from the membership itself. A member of a credit union can deposit or withdraw the money from the credit union.

The difference between a conventional institution like a loan corporation or a bank and a credit union lies in the fact that members are in fact the owners of the organization. The credit union also deals in the same spectrum of services which other financial organizations like banks offer, like share certificates, savings accounts, credit cards etc. Being a co-operative institution, it works towards the mutual interest of its owner members by charging a low rate of interest on loans and giving a high rate of interest as dividends on shares invested. The profit conscious organizations are at loggerheads with credit unions because the earnings for credit unions are tax-free. In fact the American Bankers Association made withdrawal of the tax-free benefits to credit unions as its moot point for the last two years.

There are about 11000 credit unions in the United State. St. Mary’s Bank Credit Union is the first credit union established in the United States and is presently situated in Manchester, NH. Massachusetts was the first state to pass a credit union law. Edward Filene, a department store tycoon is hailed as the father of credit unions in the United States. Initially credit unions were viewed as the lone savior for those who could not get credit or could not qualify for credit. The popularity of credit unions grew and in the year 1934, there was a genuine need to give different credit unions an industry status. In the same year, in Estes Park, Colorado, a conference was held to conceptualize the establishment of the Credit Union National Extension (CUNA). Dora Maxwell and Louise Herring, the mother of credit unions are two ladies who are known to have made it their life time mission to trigger the growth of successful credit union across the face of the entire nation.

There are Federal credit unions which are licensed or chartered under the authority of the National Credit Union administration. These Federal credit unions ensure that their members share accounts through the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF) for the security and safety of the credit union. Similarly there are state credit unions that have credit unions in the state that choose to insure their assets either through the NCUSIF or the American State Insurance.