Credit unions are cooperatives in the truest sense of the word. They have existed for more than 100 years, springing from the idea that serving a group of unserved or underserved people as a group could prove economically feasible and offer an alternative to traditional banks. Today, they rank among the best micro-finance organizations available to large swaths of the population.

Unlike big banks, which are owned by shareholders or conglomerates, credit unions are typically nonprofit operations owned by their members. Credit unions charge fewer and lower fees than for-profit banks. Ans any dividends go to the members instead of shareholders.

In short, credit unions are a good deal.

They usually offer better interest rates on savings accounts and competitive rates on various loans. You might get a fantastic rate on a student loan, mortgage, auto loan or credit card.

And, like bigger banks, the federal government ensures credit union deposits up to $250,000.

The first step in selecting a credit union is to research those in your community and their membership requirements. Some credit unions are available to employees of specific companies, groups of public service or school employees. But offers extend eligibility to anyone willing to follow their membership requirements. You may be asked to join a food co-op or other organization in order to qualify for membership.

A simple internet search is an excellent starting point. Develop a list of credit unions in your area. Then narrow your possibilities by researching eligibility, services offer and fees charged by each credit union.

Verify the current interest rates on their accounts. If you can’t find the rates online, call and ask them for the percentages

Find out if there are any fees associated with the accounts you want to open. As with traditional savings and loan banks, you might be required to pay a fee if you fall below a minimum balance.

Check about other requirements. You might need to use your debit card a certain amount of times each month.

If you are in the market for a specific loan, research to see if the loan is issued by the credit union. Once you have found several credit unions offering that type of loan, compare interest rates and specials to see who has the best deal.

Of course, convenience is something to keep in mind. Check for availability of online services, weekday and weekend hours, where branches and ATMs are located.

You should also understand any fees associated with ATM or debit card usage. If you use ATMs frequently, those charges can add up fast.

Some credit unions belong to a nation network of credit unions for shared services. It might mean more access to ATMs and other services in case you move or go on vacation. If you have children attending college in other cities, this can be useful.

Once you have completed your research, make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of each credit union. You can easily compare them.

Upon choosing your credit union, visit the branch so you can understand all of the services. Learn more about the benefits of membership.

About Pima Federal Credit Union

In 1951, sixteen teachers pooled together $84 in deposits and founded our credit union with the common purpose of helping people. To this day, our common purpose still exists. We’re here for our members and we thrive by delivering on our value promise of Smart. Simple. Personal.

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