FAQ’s About Credit Unions

What is a credit union?
A credit union is a member-owned, non-profit cooperative financial institution formed for the purpose of encouraging savings by offering a fair return, using those savings to make loans at competitively low interest rates to members, and providing other financial services. Members democratically operate the credit union under state or federal regulation. Unlike, banks and other financial institutions, credit unions are locally owned and operated by the members, for the members.

Where do they come from?
Credit unions are generally sponsored by companies, churches, fraternal organizations or other groups with similar interests. Credit unions also exist for members of certain neighborhoods or communities. Many credit unions extend their membership to the families of current members and select employee groups, and almost all offer membership for life – “once a member, always a member.” Who owns credit unions? No one person or organization runs or owns a credit union. Anyone who opens an account becomes a member and an owner. Regardless of their deposits or how much business they do, each member has one vote in electing unpaid volunteers from among the membership who serve on the board of directors and on other committees. The board hires a CEO, who in turn hires staff to fulfill the mission and goals of the membership.

If credit unions are not-for-profit, do they make money?
Most financial institutions operate to make a profit for stockholders, but credit unions return their profits, after expenses and reserves, to members in the form of dividends on savings, low rates on loans, and new or improved services. Credit unions do make money and are subject to rigorous oversight, but they return the money to members, not investors.

Are credit unions safe places for my money and my career?
Like banks and other institutions, credit union deposits are insured up to $100,000 by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), an agency of the federal government, and meet high standards of safety and soundness. Credit unions a regulated by state or federal government agencies, and supported by national and state associations, and a quick review of just a few credit union websites will tell you that most of them are growing, healthy employers who have been around for many years.

Are there educational and training opportunities as a credit union employee?
While each credit union makes its own decision about training, the industry’s national and state associations (along with a host of for-profit entities) offer training in every area of credit union operations, including management and leadership development programs. In addition, the industry actively promotes networking and cooperative information sharing. While credit unions sometimes compete for members, most credit unions actively cooperate with each other for the health of the industry, development of new products and the long-term success of their members.

What about volunteer opportunities?
Hundreds of thousands of people (members and employees) volunteer their time each year to credit unions, working inside the credit union or helping in credit union projects in their communities. The credit union philosophy of "people helping people" contribute to credit union success and make them active, valuable contributors to their communities.

Are credit unions involved in consumer education?
Credit unions continually provide their members with valuable financial information. The importance of regular savings for college, retirement, monthly budgeting, and current consumer issues are communicated to members through publications, seminars and workshops. In addition, several area credit unions work actively with local school districts to pass financial literacy skills on to students in the K-12 grades. For more information, call the Mountain West Credit Union Association at (303) 427-4222.

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