What is a Credit Union ?

   Copyright 81995 Credit Union National Association, Inc., 
                  revised June 7, 1995
        Please send your comments to Talk2Us@CUNA.ORG.

                What is a Credit Union?

A credit union is a cooperative that is owned and controlled by
the people who use its services. These people are members. Credit
unions serve people that share something in common, such as where
they work, live, or go to church. A credit union's "field of
membership" is outlined in its state or federal charter. 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

This is in contrast to Banks and Savings and Loans Institution
which are financial institutions that accept deposits and make
loans to make a profit. They are chartered, or given permission to
do business, by either the state or federal government. They are
owned by groups of stockholders whose interests include earning a
healthy return on their investments.

Credit unions, like other financial institutions, are closely
regulated. And they operate in a very prudent manner. The National
Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, administered by an agency of
the federal government, insures deposits of credit union members
at more than 12,000 federal and state chartered credit unions
nationwide. Deposits are insured up to $100,000. 


Credit unions have been providing cooperative financial services
for more than 150 years. The credit union idea developed in
Germany in the 1840s and spread to North America at the beginning
of this century. St. Mary's Bank, the first credit union in the
United States, was organized in 1908 in New Hampshire. The history
of the credit union movement demonstrates the principle of "people
helping people" in action.


Credit unions serve the financial needs of their members. Because
individuals' needs vary, so do the services that each credit union
offers. All credit unions offer savings accounts, called "share"
accounts. These savings accounts represent members' ownership
"shares" in the credit unions. Other services can include
personal, vehicle, and mortgage loans; checking accounts, credit
cards, direct deposit, payroll deduction, automated teller machine
(ATM) access, or even remote access via the Internet. For a
complete list of available services, check your local credit

                  Statistics in USA

As of May 1, 1995, there were 12,419 credit unions in the United
States, with more than 68.2 million members, $270.4 billion in
savings, $185.1 billion in loans outstanding, and $305.4 billion
in assets.