What You Need to Know Before Joining a Credit Union

joining-credit-unionThere are a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions about what a credit union is – and what it isn’t. Before you join a credit union in New Bedford or anywhere else, there are a few things you need to know. Credit unions and banks have some things in common, but in many ways they are very different. While there are checking and savings accounts available at both, with similar banking functions and features available to customers, there are still some pretty major advantages to joining a credit union over a traditional banking organization.

There are currently 94 million credit union members in the United States. So chances are good that even if you don’t currently belong to a credit union, you know someone who does. It is a lot easier to join a credit union today than it was just a few years ago. There are typically requirements that must be considered when you are learning how to become a credit union member, based either on where you work, where you live or other organizations you are associated with in some way.

“Like a Bank, but Better”
If you ask a credit union member about the services that they receive from their credit union in New Bedford, chances are you will hear this response. Credit unions and banks do have some basic things in common, but as you will see, they also have many very fundamental differences. Most credit unions are local to a city, community or county. While there are a few that are available regionally, it is more likely that your local credit union works to serve people in your local community. For example, St. Anne Credit Union in New Bedford serves members who live or work in either Bristol or Plymouth county in Southeastern Massachusetts.

An Alternative to Banks
Credit unions were first established as an alternative to the banks during the Great Depression. It was the Federal Credit Union Act that was signed into law by President Roosevelt in 1934 that really helped credit unions to take off in the United States. Credit unions were encouraged for use by the government to prevent usury and promote thrift during one of our nation’s most financially delicate periods. Many people who became members of credit unions at this time carried on the tradition, passing down membership to family members. As a result, there are currently many credit unions that have members that span several generations.

Not-for-Profit Organizations
Unlike banks, which are for-profit businesses that seek to make money for shareholders and other investors, credit unions are a not-for-profit organization that works more like a cooperative. Because they are a not-for-profit, credit unions have access to federal tax exemptions similar to what other non-profit organizations enjoy. This gives them the ability to offer better rates to their members on savings accounts, providing for little to no fees on loans and better interest rates on loans than traditional banking opportunities would allow. Other taxes are paid by credit unions however, such as payroll, sales and state taxes.

Millions of Members, Thousands of Options
The over 94 million credit union members in the United States are spread out across over 7,000 credit unions currently established in our country. Similar to the banking industry, these numbers are shrinking as some credit unions are consolidating and merging in order to offer more benefits to their members. Most credit unions are physically visible and available to the general public, but in some parts of the country they are tucked into manufacturing and corporate buildings, reserved solely for company employees. Joining a credit union that allows members based on where they live and work, such as St. Anne Credit Union in New Bedford, makes it easy for local residents to take advantage of the benefits of credit union membership.

Convenience and Customer Service
One of the most common myths about credit unions is they aren’t as convenient to use as banks. Stop by your local credit union in New Bedford to find out more about joining a credit union and all of the options, opportunities and conveniences that you will enjoy. Your local representative can tell you how to become a credit union member and what you will need to do to qualify. Ask about all of the available options for accessing your money, receiving online e-statements and other conveniences associated with credit union membership.

Once You Join – You’re Family!
Even if your situation changes and you no longer work for a specific organization or live in a certain area, once you join your local credit union, you are a member for life. There’s no need to shut down your membership accounts just because you had to relocate or if the company you work for closed down. Once you become a member you are always a member and are entitled to take advantage of all the associated benefits. Membership can also be extended to spouses, domestic partners, children and other immediate family members who live in your household.

To find out more about St. Anne Credit Union in New Bedford, stop by our local branch on Union Street in downtown New Bedford, or give us a call at 508-993-0011. Ask about all of our checking, savings, home loan, auto loan and investment opportunities. St. Anne Credit Union is the oldest credit union in Southeastern Massachusetts and has been serving community members since 1911.