by Center for Personal Finance editors
A credit union is a cooperative financial institution, owned and controlled by the people who use its services. These people are members. Credit unions serve groups that share something in common, such as where they work, live, or go to church. Credit unions are not-for-profit, and exist to provide a safe, convenient place for members to save money and to get loans at reasonable rates. Did you know there are at least seven ways you can find a credit union that you are eligible to join?
Credit unions, like other financial institutions, are closely regulated. And they operate in a very prudent manner. The National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF), administered by the National Credit Union Administration, an agency of the federal government, insures deposits of credit union members at more than 9,000 federal and state-chartered credit unions nationwide. Deposits are insured up to $100,000.
What makes a credit union different from a bank or savings & loan? Like credit unions, these financial institutions accept deposits and make loans--but unlike credit unions, they are in business to make a profit. Banks and savings & loans are owned by groups of stockholders whose interests include earning a healthy return on their investments.