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What Is a Credit Union?

Front view of SECU branch building

Learn what a credit union is, how it operates, and ways members can benefit.

A credit union is a not-for-profit cooperative financial institution, owned by its members, who use its services. Members are a group of people who share a common bond, known as a "field of membership." Because members share in the ownership of their credit union, member deposits held in credit union accounts are called "shares."

Credit unions exist to provide a safe, convenient place for members to save money and to obtain loans at reasonable rates. Profits made by credit unions are returned to the membership in the form of reduced fees, higher savings rates, and lower loan rates. Like other financial institutions, credit unions are regulated by an authoritative body. State-chartered credit unions are regulated by the state supervisory authority where the credit union’s main office is located, and federally-chartered credit unions are regulated by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), who also administer the NCUA Share Insurance Fund. Very large credit unions are also regulated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).


People Helping People®

Credit unions serve millions of members across the United States and around the globe. They are an important part of our nation's financial system and embody a spirit of cooperation through the credit union philosophy of People Helping People. Groups such as America’s Credit Unions and state credit union leagues advocate for credit unions’ unique tradition of service to people, and provide products, services, and leadership needed to compete in today's financial marketplace. Through this cooperative effort, credit unions of all sizes can offer members sophisticated financial services, coordinate their marketing, upgrade their management and technical skills, and speak with one powerful voice in Washington, D.C. There is no limit to what the credit union movement can achieve.

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