Credit Union vs. Bank: Which is Better?

Perhaps you’ve assumed that a “credit union” is another title for a bank. This is a big misconception.

There’s a fundamental difference: a credit union is a non-profit, while a bank aims to make money. It’s like a Goodwill store versus a consignment shop; one is there to provide a service, and the other is there to provide someone’s income.

A credit union exists to serve the finances of a specific group of consumers. (Whoever you are, there’s probably a credit union for you.) They charge interest like banks, but credit unions use the profits to keep their rates low, and reduce fees for their members.

By contrast, banks are always looking for new ways to make a buck. This means fees for all sorts of transactions and services, and a bottom line focused on profit.

So which institution should you bank with? Credit unions are better, for most services.

Credit unions are run by their customers. It’s true: members elect a board of directors to oversee their money. When you open an account, you own part of the credit union.

Lower rates for loans, higher rates for savings. Credit union rates are better for virtually everything: credit cards, business loans, personal loans, savings accounts, CDs… you name it.

Good customer service. We’re all familiar with cold, imposing institutions. Transactions and loan applications at a bank can be as chilly. Credit unions’ bottom line is service, and most members agree that their employees are generally easier to work with.

Are credit unions secure? It is true that credit unions are not regulated by the FDIC. Instead they have their own regulatory authority, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). The NCUA must be doing something right— notice how few credit unions went under during the 2008 financial crash.

There are some advantages for banks:

Many banks are national or international, and thus you can bank in more places. Smaller credit unions many not offer all the services you would need (sometimes not even credit cards). ATM machines for credit unions (through Cashpoints) may be hard to find.

But if you need a solid place to keep and invest your money, credit unions do the job.

Alexander Carl

Alexander Carl

I find it difficult to brag about myself. Too modest? Perhaps.

Anyway: my name is Alexander Carl. I am a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I spent four blissful years earning a degree in Communication Studies. Now I face the real world of economic downturns, student loans, and the absence of “academic” camaraderie.

Yet I refuse to be bummed. My economic philosophy is to live simply, save, and maximize whatever I can. Consumer culture is undeniably pervasive, but you don’t have to sell your soul to co-exist with it— there is great power from using your economic resources wisely.

I started writing when I figured out how to hold a pencil. Since then I’ve written short stories, poetry, screenplays, and have blogged. In fact, three of my screenplays have been produced into short films, two of which I directed. I’m no stranger to the media, having served as a DJ at a freeform radio station and worked as a crew member for live TV.

Pastimes include traveling (I’ll visit virtually anywhere), swimming, jogging, hiking, and hunkering down with a good movie.

Overall I’m a peaceful person, though not in a creepy New Agey way. I get my energy from music, good conversation, and the outdoors (I was an active Boy Scout, earning my Eagle). I consider myself “inquisitive” and “wry”, and for the sake of autobiography I’ll assume that I am.
Alexander Carl

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