Did you know there’s an International Credit Union Day? There is! Annually, the third Thursday of October celebrates how credit unions across the nation help members reach their financial dreams through a “member first” philosophy. But why celebrate this? Because credit unions ARE different. And members have a stake in what happens, as part owners. But don’t take our word for it. In a 2017 survey by the Ohio Credit Union League, members were asked” What do you think is the most significant difference between a credit union and another financial institution?” Here’s what they had to say:
- Lower interest rates on loans had the top spot with 35 percent of respondents citing it as the most significant difference.
- A close second at 34 percent, was fewer and lower fees compared to other financial institutions.
- Credit unions being member-owned, with profits going back to benefit members, was named as the most significant difference for 24 percent of respondents.
- 90 percent of the respondents rated the service they received from credit unions as “outstanding.” In similar surveys, the American Customer Satisfaction Index consistently shows credit unions deliver excellent service to members. The most recent report, on its 100-point scale, ACSI said credit unions received an overall score of 82, up from 81 the previous year.
The World Council of Credit Unions data indicates there are 231.2 million credit union members worldwide who belong to 68,880 credit unions in 109 countries. In the United States, according to the Credit Union National Association, as of June 2017, there were 110.6 million members of 5,812 credit unions in the United States. In Ohio, the state’s 284 credit unions serve 2.9 million members, and by choosing credit unions as their financial institutions, according to CUNA’s Member Benefits Index, those Ohioans received more than $206 million in direct financial benefits in the past year.
Credit unions serve a common field of membership based on characteristics such as a geographical area, employee groups, or membership in an organization. Every resident of Ohio is eligible to join a credit union, and deposits are protected by the federal government’s National Credit Union Administration insurance or the private American Share Insurance.
So, if you’re trying to decide on a financial institution, keep the following in mind:
- Do your research: Online reviews, consumer surveys, and regulatory agency reports are all good resources to find out how financial institutions treat consumers and how they conduct their business. The FDIC (banks) and NCUA (credit unions) each have searchable databases on the size, financial health, and insurance status of the financial institutions they regulate.
- Compare your needs with their strengths: If you primarily conduct your financial transactions online, you’ll want an institution that offers online or mobile banking. If ATM fees are an issue, look for surcharge-free networks or institutions that reimburse you for fees. If you need advice on planning for the future, choose an institution with a strong financial wellness program. If you need a car loan or a mortgage, look for the lowest loan interest rates.
- Choose to be involved: If you have an account with a credit union, you are both a member and an owner. This process guarantees you a voice and ensures that your credit union is looking out for your best financial interests and not that of a small group of stockholders.
Whether you are looking for your first loan, would like to start a small business, or just want to get rid of debt, a credit union can help. They offer many of the same services as other financial institutions but are not-for-profit. They treat you like a person, not a dollar sign. To learn more about credit unions and how they help members achieve their dreams, whatever they may be, visit www.aSmarterChoice.org.