Big corporate banks aren’t your only option when it comes to keeping your money safe and accessible at a financial institution. You might be wondering whether it’s worth the switch to a credit union. But what exactly is a credit union, and does it offer a different experience than a traditional bank?
Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives that exist to serve their members. Credit union membership is thriving – with more than 117.3 million members across the U.S. – and this appeal largely lies in the differences they offer over banks.
Read below to learn more about credit unions, understand the main differences between credit unions and banks, and discover what we do to help our members and the communities where they live, work, and play.
Are Credit Unions Like Banks?
Credit unions are similar to banks in that they offer valuable financial products and services like checking and savings accounts, credit cards, and loans. Plus, they both operate under similar regulations.
Both banks and federally insured credit unions take steps to protect your funds. The National Credit Union Administration provides federally insured credit unions with up to $250,000 of insurance coverage for accounts – the same amount the FDIC provides to banks.
However, you may find a very different customer experience between the two. Here are four of the main differences that make credit unions unique.
1. Credit Unions are Member-Owned
Stockholders – who expect a financial return on their investment – own traditional banks, and paid board members typically lead them. Credit union members are more than just members – they’re part owners. Surplus earnings are returned to members in the form of lower fees, better customer service, and competitive interest rates.
At PSECU, we also invest earnings into technology that allows members to do their banking whenever and wherever they’d like using digital banking and a nationwide network of ATMs.
2. Credit Unions Give Back to the Community
As not-for-profit financial cooperatives, credit unions focus on their members and the communities where they live. Because our members come from every corner of Pennsylvania, we’re uniquely positioned to give back to communities all over the commonwealth.
We organize our social responsibility efforts under four pillars – Children, Education, Environment, and Well-being. We see each one as integral to building an environment in which there is opportunity for success. When these pillars work together, communities and their residents thrive. Collectively, we call our efforts Banking on a Difference. You can read more about how we make a positive impact in our Community Report Card.
3. Credit Unions Have Eligibility Requirements to Join
Credit unions define eligibility through their field of membership. Field of membership is the common bond shared by all members. It could be based on common employer, family, geography, or membership in a group. To become a member of a credit union like PSECU, an individual must be part of the credit union’s field of membership.
If you’re a Pennsylvania resident, you’re likely eligible to join PSECU. Below are the four paths to membership.
- Family or those you reside with: You live with a PSECU member or a relative is a member. Qualifying relatives include:
- Parent or stepparent
- Child or stepchild
- Sibling or stepsibling
- Adoptive relationships
- Education: You attend, currently work at, or graduated from one of the many Pennsylvania colleges or universities with which we have a relationship.
- Employment: You’re a Pennsylvania state or local government employee, a municipality or school district employee, or an employee of a company that provides membership as a benefit. More than 1,000 employers across Pennsylvania offer PSECU membership.
- Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society (PRPS): If you don’t meet one of the above criteria, you can join PRPS to become eligible for PSECU membership. PRPS Friend membership is a one-time fee of $20, but we’ll cover $10 of that when you join.
Should I Join a Credit Union?
From lower fees to unexpected perks, you’ll find many reasons to join a credit union. If you’re looking for a more personalized experience and better rates on your loans and accounts, a credit union is typically more suited to meet your needs.